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Big period lifts Griffins over Barons

by Kyle Kujawa / Detroit Red Wings

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A record-tying five-goal second period and strong defensive performance helped the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 5-2 win over the Oklahoma City Barons on Friday night at Van Andel Arena.

Down a goal after the first 20 minutes, the Griffins put the game out of reach quickly by exploding for five goals in the middle frame. The output tied a franchise record for the most goals scored in one period at home, and also tied the most in a single period by any team in the AHL this season.

Despite just two first-period shots, it was the Barons (17-12-1-3) who opened the scoring. Teemu Hartikainen and Anton Lander controlled the puck along the boards before Lander broke free and collected a pass from Hartikainen in the slot before beating Petr Mrazek under the glove at 9:09.

Early in the second period, the Griffins (19-10-1-1) took control with three goals in the span of 3:34. Captain Jeff Hoggan started the run just 80 seconds into the frame with his fourth tally of the season. Luke Glendening took a shot from the slot, and the rebound eluded both Barons defensemen and ended up on the stick of Hoggan, who snapped the puck past the pad of netminder Yann Danis.

Nathan Paetsch put the Griffins ahead at 3:42 after Brent Raedeke brought the puck over the blueline and found him trailing the play. With plenty of time and space in the slot, the veteran defenseman labeled a shot for the top corner and gave Grand Rapids the advantage.

Playing in his 300th game as a pro, the creativity of Tomas Tatar was on full display as the Griffins took a 3-1 lead at 4:54. Tatar carried the puck into the Barons zone and fed Riley Sheahan breaking towards the net with a behind-the-back pass. Sheahan quickly kicked the puck to his stick and found space between the legs of Danis, forcing Oklahoma City head coach (and former Griffin) Todd Nelson to help his team regroup with a timeout.

Moments after he was denied on a shorthanded breakaway, Sheahan sprung Landon Ferraro on a break, and Ferraro extended the Griffins’ lead to three with a high shot over the glove of Danis at 11:48. It was Ferraro’s AHL-leading fifth shorthanded point of the season, while Sheahan moved into a second-place tie in the same category with his fourth shorthanded point on the season.

Sheahan capped off the period with his second goal and third point of the night at 17:40 on a power play that lasted just eight seconds. Tatar tipped a shot by Brendan Smith, who had his first-ever three-point night (0-3—3) towards Danis. The puck found its way to the stick of Sheahan, who stuffed it past the goaltender’s outstretched leg to give Grand Rapids a 5-1 lead.

Oklahoma City elected to keep Danis on the bench to start the third period, after he surrendered five goals on 19 shots. Olivier Roy stopped eight shots in a relief effort, while Mrazek earned the win behind 17 saves. Mrazek nearly held the league’s top two scorers, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz, off the scoreboard for the night, but the pair combined to make it 5-2 on the power play at 14:43 of the third period.

Grand Rapids, which won six of seven games during their longest homestand of the season (Dec. 19-Jan. 4), will play its next four games on the road, making stops in Chicago tomorrow at 7 p.m. and Milwaukee on Sunday at 4 p.m.

THREE STARS: 1. GR Sheahan (two goals, assist); 2. GR Smith (three assists); 3. GR Tatar (two assists)

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