03/18/2006 9:36 PM
- GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
A potential preview of the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs lived up to its billing on Saturday at Van Andel Arena, as Donald MacLean scored 2:59 into overtime to lift the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 4-3 win over the Toronto Marlies.
MacLean stripped the puck from a Marlie along the right boards, darted toward the net and slipped a shot over the left shoulder of Todd Ford, potting his AHL-high 52nd goal and igniting the Griffins seventh sellout crowd of the season (10,834). League-leading Grand Rapids (49-16-1-4), now 33 games over 0.500 for the first time in team history, has won seven straight games and 10 of its last 11.
After completing their gauntlet of five games in seven nights with an incredible five wins all in come-from-behind fashion - the Griffins will enjoy four days of rest before traveling to Cleveland for a Thursday night tilt with the Barons. Game time is set for 7:05 p.m.
During a Griffins power play less than two minutes into the game, Jiri Hudler misplayed the puck along the right point, enabling Brett Engelhardt to corral it and head out on a breakaway. Engelhardt outraced a pair of defenders and beat Jimmy Howard with a backhand for a shorthanded goal at 1:34.
Midway through the frame, with six seconds remaining in a 5-on-3 Grand Rapids advantage, Hudler made up for his earlier transgression, teeing up a blistering slapshot from the right hashmarks that rocketed past Todd Fords glove at 10:32.
Matt Ellis gave the Griffins a 2-1 lead on his team-record seventh career shorthanded goal with just 18.8 seconds remaining in the period. Nate DiCasmirro chipped the puck up the boards and out of the Grand Rapids zone to Ellis, who sprinted down the left side and unleashed a cannon from the top of the circle that found the upper right corner of the net.
During a rush at 5:59 of the second period, Jeff Corey tapped an Ian White pass through Howards five hole to tie matters, but the deadlock would last only 20 seconds. Tomas Kopecky skated with the puck through the neutral zone and across the blue line before snapping a 45-foot shot past the unsuspecting Ford, putting the Griffins ahead 3-2.
Grand Rapids maintained that cushion until deep into the third period when John Pohl got the equalizer for the Marlies (34-25-5-2), forcing overtime by finishing off a goal-mouth scramble at the 17:54 mark.
Howard, who finished with 24 stops, tied Mike Fountains franchise record with his eighth straight win, improving to 21-4-2 on the year. Ford was the tough-luck loser despite a strong 32-save effort.