Official Box Score GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. –
Brendan Brooks and Ryan Oulahen scored 1:57 apart midway through the second period and Jimmy Howard made 24 saves, as the Grand Rapids Griffins held off the Houston Aeros 2-1 at Van Andel Arena.
Rookie Benoit Pouliot scored a power play goal and Josh Harding
had 37 saves for Houston (0-5-0-1), which finishes off a five-game road trip Saturday in Grand Rapids at 6 p.m. The Aeros played without their top two scorers – Wyatt Smith and Matt Foy – both recalled to NHL Minnesota.
Grand Rapids came out firing on all cylinders in the first period, outshooting Houston 20-6, but Harding was perfect.
Harding had to stop a flurry of shots early on, turning away three Griffins in a span of seconds.
Midway through the first, Aeros winger Josh Olson threw a hard-angle shot on net, but Howard made the save.
Harding made a trio of spectacular saves in a row, again late in the period. First, he got Brooks coming in from the right wing. Oulahen cracked the rebound towards the top shelf, but Harding made the save. Then, he sprawled out to cover Jonathan Ericsson’s attempt.
The Aeros nearly scored as a power play expired early in the second, but with Ryan Hamilton having a nearly open net to shoot at, Ericsson tied up the rookie’s stick to prevent the goal.
The Griffins scored twice in a span of 1:57 to take control before the midway point of the second.
Brooks’ third goal of the season put Grand Rapids up 1-0 at the 8:07 mark. Brooks stepped over the blueline on the right wing side and unleashed a huge slapper. The puck appeared to deflect off a defenseman’s stick just after, and it eluded Harding’s glove and went inside the far post.
Oulahen made it 2-0 just 1:57 later. The Aeros had a pair of chances to clear the puck in front of Harding, but instead Oulahen turned and fired from the high slot and got a shot through traffic and over Harding’s shoulder for his first goal of the season.
Aeros veteran defenseman Curtis Murphy hit the crossbar with a long slapshot from just inside the blueline two minutes later.
Houston had a breakaway taken away late in the second after Joey Tetarenko came out of the penalty box, when Tetarenko was ruled offsides.
The Aeros twice got called for too many men on the ice late in the second.
Houston came back to control play in the third, outshooting the Griffins 15-7 and making a game of it.
Howard kept the shutout intact midway through the third, when a crazy carom off the boards left the puck on Olson’s stick at the left doorstep, but Howard made the save with his body.
Just a minute later, with Houston on the power play, Pouliot connected on his team-best third goal of the season. Fellow rookie Alex Leavitt grabbed the puck low in the left circle and slid a nifty pass to Pouliot at the right edge of the crease, and the sniper popped the puck into an open net before Howard could recover.
Two minutes after that, Houston’s Clayton Stoner
hit the crossbar, the second Aeros’ shot to grab pipe in the game.
Pouliot nearly tied it up seconds later, but his shot went off Howard’s skate.
A strong Grand Rapids forecheck kept Harding in the net until the final seconds, and the Aeros didn’t get another good look at a potential tying goal.
Houston went 1-for-5 on the power play, while Grand Rapids finished 0-for-4. The Aeros are 4-for-51 with the man advantage this season. Notes:Not dressing for the Aeros were Tony Quesada, Steve Shields, John Scott, Chris Ovington and Joel Ward. Stoner made his season debut. He was injured in the Minnesota Wild prospects tournament in early September. Houston defenseman Erik Reitz pushed his Aeros penalty minute total to 496 – most in the team’s AHL history – and 500 PIM overall counting his time with NHL Minnesota. The Aeros have scored two goals in two games against Grand Rapids this season.