GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Oklahoma City Barons scored three times in the last 10:19 of the third period, including the tying and game-winning goals within the final 2:27, to shock the Grand Rapids Griffins with a 4-3 victory on Tuesday at Van Andel Arena, tying the Western Conference finals at three games apiece.
As a result, the Griffins will play just the fourth Game 7 in franchise history and the third on home ice on Wednesday, to determine who will face the Syracuse Crunch in the Calder Cup finals. Game time is 7 p.m., and tickets are available at griffinshockey.com.
The Barons’ Mark Arcobello threaded a shot into the top corner of Petr Mrazek’s net from the left circle during a 5-on-3 power play 13:54 into the opening period, scoring Oklahoma City’s first goal since Game 3 and snapping its 0-for-19 drought with the man-advantage. That goal also broke Mrazek’s shutout streak at 175:32 and ended his run of 109 consecutive saves.
Grand Rapids answered during its own two-man advantage with 1:21 left in the period. Nathan Paetsch fired a shot wide right of the net that slammed off the end boards, and Tomas Jurco was waiting along the goal line to grab the puck and quickly bank it off Yann Danis’ back.
Mitch Callahan gave the Griffins the lead at 4:27 of the second, carrying the puck up the left side and into the Barons’ zone before snapping a wicked wrister past Danis from the top of the circle. Jeff Hoggan then made it 3-1 with 1:29 remaining in the period on a very similar play, flinging a shot on goal from the left boards that seemed to surprise Danis and found the far corner.
Midway through the third, the visitors cut their deficit in half off a turnover in the Griffins’ end, as Jonathan Cheechoo quickly fed Arcobello in the high slot for a shot that snuck past Mrazek at 9:41.
Jurco had an opportunity to restore the two-goal lead when he was awarded a penalty shot after being pulled down on a breakaway, but his try was denied by Danis’ left pad at the 11:22 mark.
The Barons were down to the final three minutes of their season when they scored the equalizer, with Toni Rajala rushing in from the right side to pot a carom off the end boards that sat near the post at 17:33. Then with just 1:05 remaining, Oklahoma City scored the game-winner when Randy Jones’ shot from the left half-wall was redirected over Mrazek’s left shoulder by Anton Lander, stunning the crowd of 4,926.
Fittingly, the Griffins lost after leading by two goals in the third for the first time since a 7-5 defeat at Oklahoma City on Feb. 9, when they led 3-1 after two and 4-2 at the 5:17 mark of the third. The Barons, meanwhile, became the fourth team in AHL history to win three road elimination games in a single postseason. No team has won four times under such circumstances.
Mrazek made 26 saves in defeat while Danis turned aside 33 shots.
GAME NOTES: The Griffins fell to 10-13 all time and 3-9 at home when their opponent faces elimination. When facing elimination themselves, the Griffins are 7-10 overall and 4-5 at Van Andel Arena. … Grand Rapids is 1-2 in its history in Game 7s, including a 4-1 loss at Manitoba in the 2007 North Division semifinals, a 5-4 win over Manitoba in the 2006 North Division finals, and a 2-1 loss to Houston in the 2003 Western Conference finals. … Mrazek’s shutout streak was his second-longest of the postseason, as he authored a streak of 178:58 from Game 4 against Houston to Game 2 against Toronto. … In the three games since Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist returned from Detroit, Grand Rapids has gone 4-for-10 on the power play. Over the series’ first three games, the Griffins went 0-for-9. … The Griffins outshot the Barons for the first time during the series, to a count of 36-30.
THREE STARS: 1. Anton Lander, OKC (GWG, 2 assists); 2. Mark Arcobello, OKC (2 goals); 3. Jeff Hoggan, GRG (1 goal)