TORONTO – The Grand Rapids Griffins fired 31 shots on goal but were shutout for the second straight game, falling to the Toronto Marlies 5-0 on Sunday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum.
The Griffins, who fell to 13-9-1-1, were blanked on consecutive outings for the first time since Nov. 17-19, 2010, when they dropped a 3-0 decision to Lake Erie and a 5-0 contest to Houston. Toronto improved to 15-9-0-1 and ended the Griffins’ six-game road winning streak, which finished just one win shy of tying the franchise record.
Both goaltenders were sharp in the opening frame. Making his first start since Nov. 13, Marlies netminder Jussi Rynnas was tested just 17 seconds in when Tomas Tatar flipped a pass over the heads of the Toronto defense to spring Gustav Nyquist on a breakaway, but Rynnas was equal to the task. The Marlies goaltender made 11 saves in the opening frame, while Tom McCollum had nine at the other end.
Toronto wasted little time in the second period to make its mark offensively. Keith Aucoin finished off a give-and-go with Ryan Hamilton to open the scoring just 20 seconds into the frame. It marked the 800th AHL point for Aucoin, who moved past Bruce Boudreau and is now the 11th-highest scoring player in league history.
The Marlies power play helped to extend the team’s lead, capitalizing on two of five opportunities in the second period. Nazem Kadri struck at 6:59 after shoveling home a rebound of a shot by Mike Kostka. Aucoin tallied his second of the night with just three seconds remaining in the period. With a five-on-three man advantage, Paul Ranger fired a pass through the slot that Aucoin tipped over the pad of McCollum to give the Marlies a 3-0 lead.
Despite 15 shots in the third period, the Griffins were unable to solve Rynnas, while the Marlies kept their foot on the gas. They made it 4-0 when Carter Ashton muscled his way into the Griffins zone and threw a shot on net that led to a rebound that Nicolas Deschamps was able to bury at 7:44 of the final frame.
Just 32 seconds later, Hamilton cemented the Toronto victory with a strong individual effort. Hamilton collected a pass from Kenny Ryan and nearly had the puck knocked off his stick before gathering it and flipping a shot over McCollum to make it 5-0.
Rynnas finished with 31 saves, and McCollum stopped 21.
Grand Rapids will be in action again on Wednesday, when it starts a season-high seven-game homestand versus the Rochester Americans at 7 p.m. The team will also take on the Abbotsford Heat on Friday at 7 p.m. and the Chicago Wolves on Saturday at 7 p.m. before entering the holiday break.
THREE STARS: 1. TOR Aucoin (two goals); 2. TOR Rynnas (W, SO, 31 saves); 3. TOR Hamilton (goal, assist)