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Griffins take Game 1 on last-minute goal

Syracuse Crunch 2 at Grand Rapids Griffins 3

by Randy Cleves /

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Tomas Nosek jammed home a power-play goal at the right post with 14 seconds remaining on Friday to lift the Grand Rapids Griffins to an exhilarating 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Syracuse Crunch in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals.

Nosek's second goal of the game resulted from a too-many-men penalty incurred by the Crunch with 29 seconds left and enabled the Griffins to improve to 8-0 at Van Andel Arena during this postseason, setting a franchise record for most home wins in a single playoff. Off a faceoff win in the Syracuse zone, Matthew Ford tipped a feed from Matt Lorito on net, and Nosek was waiting to sneak the rebound between Mike McKenna and the post and send the crowd of 8,857 into hysterics.

After claiming the win in their first-ever finals opener on home ice, the Griffins will host Game 2 against the Crunch on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Grand Rapids, now 8-0 in these playoffs when scoring first, turned the trick 4:56 into the opening period. Mitch Callahan scooped a backhand on net from the slot off a Tyler Bertuzzi pass, and after McKenna denied that initial attempt, Nosek rushed in to knock the rebound inside the right post.

The Crunch tied it with a shorthanded goal at the 9:25 mark. An errant shot by Evgeny Svechnikov caromed hard off the end boards and bounced past Bertuzzi at the left point to spark an odd-man rush for Syracuse, and Cory Conacher slipped the puck across to Kevin Lynch for a backdoor redirection and the Crunch's league-leading fifth shorty of the playoffs.

After being out-shot 11-5 during the first period, Syracuse grabbed the lead 54 seconds into the middle frame when Joel Vermin took a pass at the top of the left circle and whipped a wrister past Jared Coreau. The visitors' advantage lasted until 2:48 remained in the period, as Colin Campbell won a puck battle in the right corner and immediately threw it out high to Nathan Paetsch, who ripped a shot through McKenna's five-hole to tally his second goal in the last four games and put the Griffins back on even terms at 2-2.

The Griffins finished the night with a 36-24 shot advantage and extended their franchise playoff record by scoring a power-play goal for the 12th straight game. Coreau made 22 stops to improve to 12-2 during the playoffs, while McKenna turned aside 33 shots and fell to 11-6.

Grand Rapids won all 10 previous best-of-seven series in which it held a 1-0 lead, including the 2013 Calder Cup Finals against this same Syracuse squad.

Three Stars: 1. GR Nosek (two goals); 2. GR Bertuzzi (two assists); 3. GR Paetsch (goal)

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