01/25/2006 8:51 PM
- GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
Eric Himelfarbs power play goal with 4:24 remaining broke a 2-2 tie and thwarted a valiant comeback attempt by the San Antonio Rampage on Wednesday, as the Grand Rapids Griffins completed a fantastic home stretch with a 3-2 victory at Van Andel Arena.
In a game in which every goal was scored during a power play, the Griffins let a 2-0 lead slip away before getting the last laugh. Grand Rapids, which maintained its four-point lead over Manitoba atop the North Division, improved to 31-12-1-2 overall and 13-2-1-0 in its last 16, capping off its season-high six-game homestand with a 5-1-0-0 record.
The Griffins withstood a couple Rampage scoring chances in the opening minute to grab the upper hand 4:59 into the game, as Jiri Hudlers blast from above the left circle glanced off iron but found its way into the net for his twenty-third goal of the season. Tomas Kopecky earned the second assist on the play to move into a tie for tenth all time on the Griffins in both assists (56) and points (102).
Donald MacLean tallied his AHL-high thirtieth goal of the campaign at 10:22. Camped out in front of the right post, Darryl Bootland no-looked a backhand pass across the top of the crease to MacLean, who popped the puck past netminder Karl Goehring.
MacLeans lamp-lighter marked the Griffins franchise-record sixty-eighth power goal of the season, in just their forty-sixth contest. The previous record of 67 was set over 80 games in 2002-03. In addition, MacLean became the fastest player in franchise history to score 30 goals, accomplishing the feat in his forty-fourth game. Michel Picard had set the benchmark with 30 goals in his first 49 games during the teams inaugural 1996-97 campaign.
After out-shooting San Antonio 14-3 during a dominant first period, the Griffins watched the Rampage get on the board during their own advantage in the second, as Pavel Brendl finished off a tic-tac-toe play from the left side at 2:19. The score remained 2-1 until 10:40 of the third stanza, when Pascal Rheaume beat Joey MacDonald during a goal-mouth scramble, pulling San Antonio even on the scoreboard. However, Himelfarb would spoil the upset bid of the Rampage, who belied their league-worst record by pulling out an impressive 4-2 win at Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Hudler was credited with an assist on the game-winner, pushing his team-best point total to 58, third in the AHL and 10 points off the pace of Houstons Erik Westrum. With MacDonalds strong 27-save effort, he improved his numbers to 4-2 with a 2.48 GAA and a 0.907 save percentage during his resurgent month of January.