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Double O.T. win gives Griffins 2-0 series lead

Syracuse Crunch 5 at Grand Rapids Griffins 6 2OT

by Randy Cleves /

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Ben Street put the Grand Rapids Griffins' 51st shot past Mike McKenna 7:02 into the second overtime on Saturday to give the home squad an unforgettable 6-5 victory over the Syracuse Crunch and a 2-0 lead in the Calder Cup Finals.

In the third-longest contest in Van Andel Arena history, the Crunch fought back to tie the game on four occasions and carried the play for most of the first and second overtime periods. Sixteen of their 55 shots came during the first overtime when Jared Coreau tied a franchise playoff record for saves in a period to enable Grand Rapids to withstand Syracuse's constant, swarming effort in the Griffins' zone.

As the chess match ticked into its 88th minute, Eric Tangradi scooped up a turnover at the Syracuse line and sped down the right side before slipping a feed to Street, who beat McKenna far side from the right hashmarks to ignite the sellout crowd of 10,834.

The Griffins, now 9-0 at home during the playoffs, will now play as many as three straight games at the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse, where the Crunch also sport a perfect 9-0 mark during the postseason. Game 3 is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The Griffins' power play struck for the 13th consecutive game 5:27 into the opening period, extending the team's record playoff streak and tying the overall franchise mark. Martin Frk maneuvered past two defenders in the high slot to open up a shooting lane before picking the far corner of McKenna's cage from the right circle. It was Frk's first power play goal of the postseason after posting a team-high 12 during the regular season.

Yanni Gourde put Syracuse on the board at 10:37. After his centering attempt from the right side was blocked by Robbie Russo, Gourde flashed his hand-eye coordination by batting the airborne biscuit into the net behind Coreau.

The Crunch's hesitation to play the puck behind their net cost them less than two minutes later, as Street barreled in to steal it in the right corner and hit Tangradi with a cross-ice feed. Tangradi's try from the left circle was kicked out by McKenna, but Street was waiting in the slot to slam the rebound into a gaping net at 12:29.

Syracuse scored twice within a span of 1:11 early in the second period to jump ahead by a 3-2 count. Joel Vermin sped into the Griffins' zone, picked up a loose puck at the right point, circled around Nathan Paetsch and flung a forehand past Coreau at 4:30, before Erik Condra crashed the net to knock home a rebound and give the Crunch their first lead of the evening.

The Griffins pulled even on their second power-play goal of the night 7:07 before the second intermission. Off an outlet pass from Frk, Mitch Callahan swooped down the left side and was denied trying to hammer the puck past McKenna, but Evgeny Svechnikov followed up to pop it inside the left post.

Grand Rapids tied its franchise playoff record by scoring its third power-play goal 24 seconds into the final period, as Tomas Nosek slashed through the goalmouth to tip Street's shot from the left point and give the Griffins the 4-3 lead. But Syracuse answered during its own man-advantage seven minutes later, with Cory Conacher blasting a one-timer past Coreau from the edge of the right circle at 7:47.

With the Griffins buzzing around the Syracuse net and blasting several consecutive bombs at McKenna, Tyler Bertuzzi put Grand Rapids ahead 5-4 by pouncing on a rebound in the slot and lifting it over the netminder at 13:36. Coreau then denied Byron Froese on a penalty shot that was awarded after Dylan McIlrath covered the puck in the crease, but Syracuse still made it five-all eight seconds later when Michael Bournival steered a deflection into the right corner of Coreau's net at 15:15.

The game progressed to overtime, marking the third time the Griffins played past regulation this postseason and the second time they've ever done it in a finals game, dating to Game 1 of the 2000 Turner Cup Finals (a 4-3 loss at Chicago).

Syracuse dominated the first overtime with scoring chance after scoring chance but Coreau stood strong. He stuck out his left pad to rob Kevin Lynch's would-be game-winner with 9:40 left, denied Vermin's deflection from point-blank range two minutes later, then stoned Vermin again on a wide-open chance from the high slot.

After it seemed that the Crunch were on a power play for most of the extra session, they received a real chance with 1:19 left when Street took a delay of game penalty for sending the puck over the glass, but the Griffins' penalty killers held firm throughout the power play that trickled into the fifth period.

Grand Rapids eventually prevailed to claim its fifth consecutive victory, tying another team playoff mark and improving to 5-0 all-time in games decided in double overtime.

Coreau pushed his remarkable playoff record to 13-2 by stopping 50 of 55 shots while McKenna was nearly as busy, saving 45 of 51.

Notes: Grand Rapids' last multi-overtime game was on April 25, 2014 at Abbotsford, a 2-1 double-overtime win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals…The capacity crowd marked the Griffins' third sellout of a finals game in franchise history (eight games total, including 2013 AHL and 2000 IHL)…The Griffins scored three power-play goals in a playoff game three times before, most recently on May 6, 2006 in Game 2 of the North Division Finals against Manitoba…Grand Rapids won all five previous best-of-seven series in which it held a 2-0 lead, including the 2013 Calder Cup Finals against this same Syracuse squad.

Three Stars: 1. GR Street (two goals, assist); 2. GR Frk (power play goal, two assists); 3. SYR Conacher (power play goal)

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