ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia – The Grand Rapids Griffins scored six unanswered goals to rally from an early deficit to claim a 7-2 win over the Abbotsford Heat on Saturday in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre.
Andrej Nestrasil, Teemu Pulkkinen and Ryan Sproul each registered three points as the Griffins enjoyed one of the most dominant road performances in their playoff history. Their 46 shots set a franchise record for a road playoff game, while their 17 shots allowed were one more than their postseason road mark.
Now holding a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, the Griffins will have three chances to close it out on home ice, beginning Wednesday when they’ll host the Heat in a 7 p.m. start at Van Andel Arena.
The first 17 minutes of a wide-open first period featured more goals than Friday’s double-overtime marathon, as the Heat twice took leads only to see the Griffins quickly answer.
Emile Poirier opened the scoring at 7:40 by putting a juicy rebound past Petr Mrazek from the left side, before Trevor Parkes, making his Calder Cup playoff debut, jammed home a nifty drop pass by Mattias Janmark at the top of the crease at 10:13.
The Heat used a fortunate bounce to go back on top during a power play at the 15:32 mark, as Max Reinhart’s centering feed from the right of the net caromed off the skate of Brennan Evans in the slot and past Mrazek. Undaunted, Grand Rapids responded only 35 seconds later when Sproul’s blast from the top of the left circle glanced off Nestrasil before falling across the line.
Just when it looked like the dust had settled before the intermission’s horn, Cory Emmerton’s great individual effort resulted in a late shorthanded goal and a 3-2 Griffins lead through 20 minutes. Emmerton stole the puck in the neutral zone, kept a step on a defender as he bore in on Joni Ortio and chipped the puck over the netminder while falling to the ice with just 36 seconds left on the clock.
Grand Rapids’ 21-7 shot advantage during the first frame set a franchise playoff record for most shots in a road period and tied the record for shots in any period.
British Columbia native Jeff Hoggan celebrated his homecoming by pushing the Griffins’ lead to 4-2 early in the second period, snapping a shot over Ortio’s glove off a feed from Pulkkinen at 2:02.
Nestrasil’s second goal of the game at 11:19, from a sharp angle at the bottom of the left circle, marked the fourth unanswered tally for the visitors and the end of the night for Ortio, who was replaced by rookie Doug Carr.
Andreas Athanasiou was awarded a penalty shot at the 14:18 mark when his breakaway on Carr was impeded by Kane Lafranchise and Markus Granlund, but he could not get a shot off on his attempt and the Griffins skated to the locker room with a 5-2 lead and a 35-11 cushion in shots.
Sproul, the Game 1 hero, scored the Griffins’ first power-play goal of the postseason when his shot from the point slipped beneath Carr’s arm 6:42 into the final period, and Pulkkinen cashed in on another opportunity courtesy of his patented one-timer from atop the left circle with 7:51 remaining.
Mrazek, making his 26th consecutive playoff start for the Griffins, finished with 15 saves on the night. Ortio sustained the loss by allowing five goals on 30 shots, while Carr ceded two goals on 16 shots in relief.
GAME NOTES: The Griffins extended a franchise playoff record with their seventh consecutive road victory, dating to Game 4 of the 2013 Western Conference finals in Oklahoma City. … This is the sixth best-of-five series in Griffins playoff history and the third in which they’ve held a 2-0 lead. They defeated Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in four games during the 2003 Western Conference quarterfinals and lost the final three games to Orlando in their first-ever playoff appearance in the 1997 IHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
THREE STARS: 1. GR Andrej Nestrasil (two goals, assist); 2. GR Ryan Sproul (power play goal, two assists); 3. GR Teemu Pulkkinen (power play goal, two assists)