GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Peoria Rivermen broke open a scoreless game by notching three goals in the final 9:01 on Friday at Van Andel Arena, handing the Grand Rapids Griffins their first shutout loss of the season.
Jake Allen made 33 saves to blank the Griffins for the second time in his career, following a 30-save effort in his 2-0 win in Grand Rapids on Jan. 1, 2011. Petr Mrazek was nearly as strong on the other end, denying 29 of 31 shots.
For the Griffins (13-8-1-1), tonight marked the first time in 38 games – exactly a half season’s worth – that they failed to score a goal, dating to a 2-0 home loss to Toronto on March 16.
Midway through the third period, the Rivermen (10-11-2-2) received a fortunate bounce to finally break the ice. After a turnover at the Griffins’ blue line during a line change, Mrazek made the initial stop on Derek Nesbitt, but the rebound caromed off the leg of a crease-crashing Adam Cracknell and into the goal. Referee Graham Skilliter went to the scorer’s table for a video review – the first in a Griffins game under the AHL’s new system this season – before ruling a good goal.
Peoria then made it a 2-0 game with 6:33 left, when Tyler Shattock potted a rebound into a gaping cage from the right side.
Griffins coach Jeff Blashill pulled Mrazek in favor of an extra attacker with just over three minutes remaining, but Jaden Schwartz increased the Peoria margin to three by scoring into the vacated net from center ice at 18:11.
Left with little more than a chance to spoil Allen’s shutout bid, Mrazek again went to the bench as Peoria’s Mark Cundari was called for a hooking penalty with 1:21 remaining, creating a 6-on-4 advantage in skaters for Grand Rapids. But the Griffins still could not solve Allen as the final seconds ticked away.
Grand Rapids killed off all five Peoria power plays, including a chance midway through the second period when the puck was in the Griffins’ zone for two full minutes without a stoppage or line change. However, the Griffins’ own power play was likewise unable to capitalize on its five opportunities.
The Griffins, who’ve won six straight road games, will look to tie the franchise-record streak of seven that was set more than eight years ago when they travel to Toronto to face the Marlies at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
THREE STARS: 1. PEO Allen (W, 33 saves); 2. PEO Cracknell (game-winning goal); 3. GR Mrazek (L, 29 saves)