GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Behind Jeremy Smith’s 20 saves and Chris Mueller’s shorthanded breakaway goal, the Milwaukee Admirals put a stop to the Grand Rapids Griffins’ eight-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory on Sunday at Van Andel Arena.
The Admirals snapped the fourth-longest winning streak in Griffins history and handed goaltender Petr Mrazek his first AHL defeat. The brilliant rookie enjoyed a 6-0 debut, the best ever for a Grand Rapids netminder.
Milwaukee built a 2-1 lead in the opening period, striking first at 7:10 when Scott Valentine’s blast from the right point sailed through a screen. Tomas Tatar tied matters with a power play goal at 14:40, crashing the crease to pot the rebound of a Joakim Andersson deflection for his team-high 10th goal of the season.
But the Admirals (8-8-1-1) regained their advantage on their own power play marker with just six seconds remaining in the frame. Moments after the Griffins had killed off two 5-on-3 advantages that totaled 1:49, Mattias Ekholm fired a one-timer from above the left circle that snuck inside the far post, courtesy of another screen.
Mueller, the former Michigan State star who made his pro debut in two games with the Griffins in 2007-08, extended the Admirals’ cushion to 3-1 on a shorthanded goal at 15:11 of the second, as he stole the puck at the Grand Rapids blue line, skated in alone and beat Mrazek with a shot low to the ice.
Grand Rapids (10-5-1-1) pulled back to within one goal with exactly nine minutes left in the third period. Off a turnover deep in the Milwaukee zone, Brendan Smith slipped a pass to the goal mouth to Francis Pare, who patiently glided to the left of the net before scooping a backhand high into the far corner.
Despite outshooting Milwaukee 7-4 during the third period and 22-20 for the game, and pulling Mrazek for an extra attacker over the final 1:20, the Griffins could not get the equalizer, losing for the first time since an identical 3-2 setback on Nov. 2 in San Antonio.
Mrazek finished with 17 saves.
The Griffins, who remain in sole possession of first place in the Midwest Division, will continue their four-game home stand this weekend by hosting a Friday-Saturday set against the Texas Stars. Game time both nights is 7 p.m.
GAME NOTES: Mrazek’s six-game winning streak (Nov. 3-23) was the longest for a Griffins goalie since Daniel Larsson’s seven-game run in 2009-10 (Oct. 23-Nov. 21) and the second-longest since Jimmy Howard’s franchise-record 12-game streak as a rookie in 2005-06 (Feb. 25-March 31)…Tatar’s 74th career goal moved him past Derek King (73) and into fifth place on the Griffins’ all-time list, one behind Kip Miller (75).
THREE STARS: 1. GR Tatar (power play goal); 2. MIL Smith (W, 20 saves); 3. GR Pare (goal)