TORONTO – Jeff Blashill earned his first victory as the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, as the team beat the Toronto Marlies 4-3 in a shootout on Sunday at Ricoh Coliseum.
Two days after allowing three power play goals to the Rochester Americans, special teams proved to be the difference for the Griffins (1-2-0-1) in the victory, as they scored two power play goals and successfully killed off all six of the Marlies’ opportunities.
The Marlies (2-3-0-0) tallied the first goal of the night on only their second shot on goal at 17:36 of the first period. Using pinpoint passing in transition, Leo Komarov found Joe Colborne skating up the right wing side. Colborne fed the puck right back to his teammate, and Komarov’s shot from the left wing circle broke the scoreless tie.
After being limited to six shots in the first period, Mike Kostka gave Toronto a 2-0 lead at 4:47 of the second. Jake Gardiner made a difficult pass from behind the goal line to Kenny Ryan, who then found Kostka just outside the blue line. The slap shot goal was Kostka’s second of the 2012-13 season.
The Griffins capitalized on their first power play of the game, cutting the Marlies’ lead in half at 8:18 of the second period. Tomas Tatar threaded a pass through Ashton’s legs to Gustav Nyquist, who was waiting at the right side of the goal. Nyquist’s shot slipped inside the right goal post past goaltender Jussi Rynnas, tallying the right winger’s first goal of the season.
The Marlies restored their two-goal lead at 11:13 of the second period. On a chip pass from Colborne, Korbinian Holzer took a long shot through traffic and tucked the puck inside the left goal post past a screened Tom McCollum.
The Griffins killed off three straight penalties, including two brief two-man disadvantages, before scoring their second straight power play goal at 16:27 of the second period. Rookie Chad Billins, who recorded his first three professional points in the game, drew the Marlies defenders to the right wing side, freeing up Tatar in front of the net. Tatar tucked the puck in the right corner on a backhand shot, notching his first goal of the season.
Nyquist tied the game at 6:53 of the third period off of a rebound on the doorstep. Riley Sheahan’s wrist shot was denied and dropped to the ice near the Marlies’ crease. Nyquist scooped the puck quickly into the net, scoring his second goal of the game to tie the game at 3-3.
Neither team broke the 3-3 tie, and Grand Rapids went into overtime for the second time this season. The Griffins entered the extra session on a power play, but Rynnas made four saves to aid the Marlies in killing off the penalty.
After a scoreless overtime, Tomas Jurco, Brendan Smith and Nyquist scored on all three of the Griffins’ shootout attempts, while McCollum stopped a trio of Toronto shooters to seal the victory.
Rynnas stopped 28 of 31 attempts while McCollum recorded his first win behind 20 saves.
The Griffins return home this week, playing the Charlotte Checkers Friday at 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena.
Three Stars: 1. GR Nyquist (two goals, shootout-winning goal); 2. GR Tatar (PPG, assist); 3. TOR Komarov (goal).