03/20/2011 5:52 PM
Rockford IceHogs 3 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5
March 20, 2011
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Two quick goals in the second period and a pair of third period tallies from Tomas Tatar vaulted Grand Rapids into third place in the North Division and the final guaranteed playoff position, as the Griffins earned a 5-3 win over the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday evening at Van Andel Arena.
With the win, Grand Rapids stand just two points behind first-place Manitoba and Lake Erie with 80 points. In addition, Griffins’ netminder Jordan Pearce earned his ninth win in his last 11 outings with the 31 save performance.
The Griffins (35-26-2-8) will conclude their five-game homestand Wednesday at 7 p.m. against the Toronto Marlies, after which they’ll play seven of their final eight regular season games on the road.
Each team had a near-miss in the early going. Derek Meech cleared a puck that had slipped behind Pearce during a Rockford power play just over a minute in, while a Jamie Johnson try four minutes later on the other end clanged off the post.
The game remained scoreless until midway through the second period, when the Griffins tallied two goals just nine seconds apart – only two ticks slower than the franchise record for consecutive goals set during the franchise’s first month of play on Oct. 19, 1996. Doug Janik fired a shot from the point that Alec Richards turned aside, but Jamie Johnson pounced on the rebound for an easy tap-in from the right side at 9:59.
Joakim Andersson then made it 2-0 at the 10:08 mark, as the Griffins burst into the zone and had several quick chances before he pushed the puck across the line.
The IceHogs finally got on the board at the 9:59 mark of the third period as the result of maintaining strong pressure in the offensive zone. Jassen Cullimore recorded his first goal of the season by blasting a Brandon Pirri feed past the catching glove of Pearce.
The combination of Ilari Filppula and Tatar struck twice in the third period to put the game just out of Rockford's reach. Tatar restored the Griffins' two-goal lead at the 10:17 mark, just 18 seconds after the IceHogs had made it 2-1. Filppula collected the puck behind the net and centered it to Tatar, who showed great patience before putting the puck past a sprawled Richards.
Tatar struck for his 23rd goal on the season after a give-and-go with Filppula at 16:05. Tatar carried the puck into the zone and went hard to the net after handing the puck off to Filppula. Filppula gave it right back to Tatar, who made a quick move before putting a backhand shot to the top of the net to make it 4-1. Francis Pare also picked up an assist on the play, giving him 12 points in his last eight games.
Jan Mursak put what looked like the final nail in the coffin at the 18:38 of the final frame. Mursak took a cross-ice feed from Logan Pyett and snapped the puck past Richards to give the Griffins a 5-1 lead.
Rockford showed life in the final minute of the contest, but the comeback ultimately fell short. Kyle Hagel narrowed the deficit to three at 19:02 with his fifth goal on the season. Cullimore struck for his second goal of the game at 19:30 with another shot from the point, but the Griffins held on for the 5-3 win.
Notes: With tonight’s attendance of 8,113, the Griffins drew 34,602 fans for their first-ever 4-in-5 on home ice, including 27,477 for this weekend’s three games.
Three Stars: 1. GR Tatar (two goals); 2. RFD Cullimore (two goals, one assist); 3. GR Filppula (two assists)