GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins’ four-game winning streak came to an end on Saturday with a 3-1 defeat to the Toronto Marlies at Van Andel Arena.
Gustav Nyquist scored just 52 seconds into the game, but that is all the Griffins could muster despite being awarded six power play chances and outshooting Toronto 28-24. Much of the credit for the Marlies’ victory went to netminder Jussi Rynnas, who made 27 saves to improve to 5-1-1 with a 1.81 goals against average and a 0.942 save percentage on the season.
After splitting this weekend’s two-game set between division leaders, the Griffins (17-10-1-1) now find themselves tied atop the Midwest with Rockford, while the Marlies (19-9-1-2) maintain a three-point advantage over Abbotsford in the North.
The Griffins were looking good in their bid for a sweep in the opening minute of the contest, when Tomas Tatar slipped a pass to Nyquist at the Toronto line. Nyquist sped down the right side, angled toward the net and ripped a shot over the glove of Rynnas, negating his personal effort to shut out Grand Rapids for a second straight meeting.
Toronto evened the score 4:13 into the second period thanks to a strange turn of events. Tom McCollum headed to the bench for what he believed was a delayed penalty on the Marlies, as he saw the referee’s arm raised and teammate Tatar in possession of the puck. However, the infraction was ultimately called against Triston Grant, so when the Marlies carried the puck through the neutral zone there was no opposition in the Grand Rapids cage, and Carter Ashton threw the puck into the vacated net from the blue line.
Later in the period, Grand Rapids squandered 1:51 worth of a 5-on-3 advantage, a failure that proved more damaging when the Marlies took a 2-1 lead just 44 ticks into the third period. From the left corner, Spencer Abbott centered a pass to Ryan Hamilton, who beat McCollum top shelf from the slot.
Hamilton tallied his second goal in an empty net with 29 seconds remaining for the final margin.
McCollum, who helped deny Toronto on its three power play opportunities, finished with 21 saves.
The Griffins will close out 2012 on Monday when they host Rockford for their 16th annual New Year's Eve celebration. The game will feature a special 6 p.m. start.
THREE STARS: 1. TOR Hamilton (two goals); 2. TOR Rynnas (W, 27 saves); 3. GR Nyquist (goal)