GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Despite surrendering the first goal of the game via a penalty shot, the Grand Rapids Griffins showed terrific resiliency with a dominant second period, overwhelming the San Jose Barracuda 6-2 Friday night at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins scored four second-period goals to erase a one-goal deficit and cruise to the four-goal victory, taking a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.
Grand Rapids can close out the Western Conference Finals Saturday night with a victory at Van Andel Arena and advance to the Calder Cup Finals against the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals between Providence and Syracuse.
1. Eric Tangradi: The veteran forward led the Griffins' potent offensive attack with a goal and two assists. He was a physical force on the ice and seemed to get under the Barracuda's skin. San Jose took eight penalties in the game and the Griffins went 2-for-8 on the power play. Tangradi assisted on the Griffins' first goal, scored by Tyler Bertuzzi, and notched his second goal of the playoffs to put Grand Rapids ahead 2-1 and then assisted on the eventual game-winner off the stick of Tomas Nosek. Tangradi has 15 points during this playoff run to lead the Griffins.
Quotable: "Going through some injuries this year, just towards the end of the season I was healthy and I started to pick up where I left off last season. I am getting more comfortable using my size and my speed. Throughout my career, playoffs have just been the time of year I get fired up for, I try and thrive in big moments and try and play a big, physical game, trying to get pucks to the net and my line mates are doing a great job picking up the garbage." - Tangradi
Quotable II: "He's been excellent. I can say that about all our leaders. I think against San Jose he's cranked it up a notch. If you look the way he scored his goal tonight, it was just hard word work, outmuscling their player and taking it to the net and it was a big goal. Anytime a team plays man-on-man on you, having a big body like Eric helps. - Griffins coach Todd Nelson
2. Tomas Nosek: Standing at 6'3" and checking in at 210 pounds, the Czech Republic native didn't back down from the rough play of San Jose as the game became out of reach. Nosek scored his seventh goal of the playoffs which leads the Griffins in goals and is also the most goals he's scored in the playoffs during his career. Nosek also assisted on Martin Frk's goal, hitting the streaking forward with a beautiful pass up the middle of the ice.
Quotable: "It's a pretty good chance to finish here at home and don't want to go to San Jose again, but still just three wins and we need one more. It doesn't matter when but it would be good tomorrow for sure." - Nosek
3. Tyler Bertuzzi: It just seems Bertuzzi's abrasive style of play fits into playoff hockey perfectly. He scored the Griffins' first goal, his sixth of the playoffs, by pouncing on a rebound in front of the San Jose net. All game long he pestered and goaded the Barracuda players, eventually being assessed a 10-minute misconduct in the third period.
Quotable: "That's what we do. We wear opponents down and that's what's going to happen if you get hit every time. I think we played the body well tonight. Like I said, it wears on them. We're all in it together. A lot of guys showed up tonight. We played a really physical game and it really opened up the ice for some guys to get opportunities and get some goals. We bought in as a team and it was fun to watch." - Bertuzzi
Quotable II: "We have to reel a lot of guys in when the game gets emotional, it's a fine line. We want our guys to play aggressive and Tyler is a big part of that, but we also got to be smart and play hard between the whistles and make sure if you go into the penalty box you take somebody with you." - Nelson