ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Their best game of the season was all it took for the Grand Rapids Griffins to finally get a win in Abbotsford.
Joey MacDonald made 28 saves to lead the Grand Rapids Griffins to an upset victory, 4-3 over the Abbotsford Heat in American Hockey League action Friday.
The victory is the first ever for the Griffins at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre in five tries in the Heat's three-year history.
"We've come in here four times in the last couple years and haven't won a game here," said Griffins' head coach Curt Fraser. "It was important to get off to a great start and play the best game of the year we could muster up."
The Griffins (14-13-6) are 5-0-2 in their past seven games to move past the Lake Erie Monsters into third-place in the North Division.
"We've been good now for 20 games and we're getting better all the time," said Fraser. "But it's nice to use Abbotsford as a measuring stick to see where we're at with our game."
The Heat's loss snapped a modest two-game winning streak as Abbotsford (22-10-2) missed a chance to move within two points of AHL-leading Oklahoma, which also lost Friday.
MacDonald made nine saves in the third period, including a spectacular sprawling stop on Jon Rheault's backhand attempt with six minutes remaining and a point-blank, one-timer by Krys Kolanos a minute later.
"We're going to give up some chances and usually when we do it's a good one, so our goaltenders have to be excellent," said Fraser. "(MacDonald) was fantastic."
Grand Rapids' Brian Lashoff and Francis Pare each had a goal and an assist, while Tomas Tatar and Landon Ferraro also scored.
Rheault, with two, and Greg Nemisz scored for Abbotsford. Kolanos added three assists, while Ben Walter chipped in with two of his own.
Danny Taylor started his 10th-straight game for the Heat but was pulled after allowing two goals on eight shots. Joni Ortio took over and allowed two goals on 22 shots.
The Griffins opened the scoring at 8:53 of the first period. Tatar busted down the right wing and backhanded his own rebound over Taylor's glove for his 10th of the season.
Pare made it 2-0 at 12:05. After a dump in just wide of the Abbotsford net bounced out in front, Pare split two defencemen and made a quick move to score his sixth of the year. The goal chased Taylor, with Ortio coming in to make just his sixth appearance of the year.
"They're a real good team and we knew we had to get off to a quick start," said Fraser.
The Heat got on the board at 3:37 of the second. After Kolanos missed a wide open net, Walter dug the puck out from behind the net and fed it to Rheault in front for his 12th of the year.
The Griffins' power play re-established the two-goal cushion when Lashoff snuck into the slot to pot his fourth goal of the year at 6:06.
Just after an Abbotsford penalty expired, the Heat cut the lead again. Kolanos centred the puck to Nemisz and he beat MacDonald blocker side at 13:10 of the second for his eighth of the season.
However, Grand Rapids regained the two-goal lead once more with 2:38 to go in the second. Ferraro took a perfect feed from Willie Coetzee and one timed it by Ortio for his fifth of the year.
"Our kids came through tonight," said Fraser. "Lashoff, on defence, kicks in a nice goal and Ferraro scored a nice goal."
Abbotsford made it interesting late. Kolanos threw the puck into the slot where Rheault spun around and wired it past MacDonald for his second of the game. But that was as close as they'd come.
The two teams face each other again Saturday night.
"We felt like we beat ourselves a little bit," said Nemisz. "There's some things we've got to fix and we'll be better (Saturday) night."
NOTES: Abbotsford defenceman Brendan Mikkelson was traded by the NHL's Calgary Flames to the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier Friday. ... Nemisz was playing his first game back with the Heat since being re-assigned. ... Abbotsford's Carter Bancks was playing his first game since returning from a hand injury. ... Abbotsford's Ryan Howse left the game in the second period with an undisclosed injury and is not expected to play Saturday.