GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Despite firing 42 shots at Lake Erie’s Joonas Korpisalo on Sunday, the Grand Rapids Griffins suffered their third straight one-goal loss of the Central Division finals, falling 2-1 to the Monsters at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins, who are now tasked with trying to become the fourth team in AHL history to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 0-3, will host Game 4 on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The Monsters needed only 17 seconds to jump on top off a giveaway at the Griffins’ blueline, as Josh Anderson sped in with the gifted puck and beat Tom McCollum with a wrist shot from the right circle.
Grand Rapids nearly answered four minutes in when Anthony Mantha won a race for the puck along the end boards and put a feed out front to Andreas Athanasiou, who managed an off-balance shot that Korpisalo stopped and covered. Korpisalo was called on for a tougher save midway through the frame, when he denied a Ryan Sproul chance from the right circle then immediately slid to his right to deny Louis-Marc Aubry’s one-timer of the juicy rebound.
The Griffins would eventually out-shoot Lake Erie 22-8 during the opening 20 minutes – helped in part by a four-minute power play awarded when Tyler Bertuzzi was high-sticked by Michael Chaput with 4:58 remaining – to tie a franchise playoff record for shots in one period, set on May 28, 2015 during the third period against Utica. For his part, Korpisalo’s 22 saves established a record for the most by a Griffins’ opponent in a playoff period, breaking the mark of 21 set by Utica’s Jacob Markstrom in that same period.
Lake Erie made good on its 12th shot of the contest at 8:07 of the second to push its lead to 2-0. From the left boards, Oliver Bjorkstrand sent a cross-ice pass to former Michigan Wolverines standout Zach Werenski, who slammed a shot past McCollum from the right side.
Korpisalo stood tall again less than two minutes later, windmilling to rob Eric Tangradi after Dean Kukan had handed over the puck to him in the right circle. But the Griffins finally solved the Monsters’ netminder on their 29th shot of the night with 2:12 left in the period, as Sproul blasted Andy Miele’s pass high into the net from the top of the right circle.
McCollum kept the Griffins alive deep into the third period by making a pair of stops on breakaways with less than four minutes left before being pulled for an extra attacker with two minutes on the clock, but the Monsters survived the Griffins’ final flurry. Korpisalo logged 41 saves to improve to 6-0 in the postseason while McCollum finished with 21 stops.
GRIFFINS NOTES: The Griffins have suffered three straight one-goal playoff losses for the first time since the 2006 Western Conference finals against Milwaukee. … The three AHL teams to win a series after trailing 0-3 were Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2013, Adirondack in 1989, and Rochester in 1960.
THREE STARS: 1. LEM, Joonas Korpisalo (W, 41 saves); 2. LEM, Zach Werenski (goal); 3. GRG, Ryan Sproul (goal).