Official Box Score HOUSTON, Texas - Jiri Hudler scored two of Grand Rapids’ remarkable five third-period power play goals, and Valterri Filpulla won it with a man advantage goal with 2:17 left, as the Grand Rapids Griffins rallied from a three-goal deficit for an improbable 6-5 victory to snap the Houston Aeros’ eight-game winning streak. Hudler added two assists, Bryan Helmer had a goal and a helper, Tomas Kopecky scored and Darryl Bootland tallied the only non power-play goal for the Griffins. Jimmy Howard made 31 saves for Grand Rapids, which has come back to win from a multiple-goal deficit a whopping seven times.
Rem Murray, Curtis Murphy, Petr Taticek and Matt Foy each had a goal and an assist for Houston, which had won seven in a row at home to come within one victory of a franchise record. Peter Olvecky added a goal and Josh Harding finished with 32 saves for the Aeros.
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Houston had allowed five goals of any kind in a period at home just once in team history, in the first period of a 7-3 loss to Hartford December 8, 2001. The five power play goals in the game itself were a team record against the Aeros at home. They’d twice allowed four power play goals in a game. The teams entered tonight in the top four of the AHL in team offense, and they didn’t disappoint.
Houston dominated the first period in all facets, outshooting the Griffins 20-7 and scoring three times. The Aeros turned their speed into five man advantages, scoring once.
Olvecky, who returned to the lineup last night after missing seven games due to injury, scored his first goal since November 12 to put Houston up at 4:29 of the first. With the Aeros on the power play, Murray slid a pass from the left circle to a cutting Erik Reitz at the top of the right circle. Reitz unleashed a furious one-timer and Howard made the save, but a juicy rebound kicked right into the mid-slot, and Olvecky popped it into the back of the empty cage for the 1-0 lead.
Murphy’s fourth goal of the season, his first since November 18, pushed Houston’s lead to two goals, at 12:27 of the first. Taticek slid a pass to an unmarked Murphy at the center point. Murphy ripped a shot that deflected off a Griffin and by Howard.
Just 90 seconds later, Murray scored his eighth of the season and second in as many nights. But the story of the play was Foy. He drew a penalty in the right corner but kept pressing on towards the net. Foy got tripped up again in front of the net, falling behind the goal line but somehow flipping the puck to a wide open Murray just outside the crease. Murray had no problems putting the puck in the back of the net for the 3-0 advantage.
The Aeros got 32 seconds of a 5-on-3, followed by 23 more, later in the first, but Howard shut the door.
Houston has outscored San Antonio and Grand Rapids 6-1 in the first period over the last two nights.
The second period was the polar opposite of its predecessor, with Grand Rapids outshooting the Aeros 20-7 - the exact opposite of the first. But Harding was strong, allowing the Griffins just one goal, and Houston answered back with one of its own.
Bootland’s 10th goal of the season got the Griffins within 3-1 with 8:11 left in the second. Harding came out to block Clay Wilson’s point blast, and the rebound got behind him. Bootland beat Houston’s Ryan Stokes to the rebound and pushed it into the cage.
The Aeros pushed the lead back to three goals with 2:48 remaining in the middle period. Taticek dug the puck out of the left wing boards to Erik Westrum and then headed to the net. Westrum sent a pass back to Taticek, who snapped a quick shot with a defender on his back near side by Howard for his career-high ninth goal of the season.
Taticek’s seven-game point streak (3-8=11) is a career-high, and his seven-game assist streak is a team season-high and the longest active run in the AHL.
Howard helped keep it a three-goal game when Patrick O’Sullivan and Foy broke in 2-on-1. O’Sullivan whacked a bouncing puck from the right wing boards to Foy, who redirected the puck on net, just as Howard recovered.
Kopecky got Grand Rapids within 4-2 with 1:48 gone in the third, with Stokes in the box for holding. Filpulla slid a pass from the right circle to Kopecky along the goal line. Kopecky somehow snuck the puck by Harding short side for his 12th of the season.
Grand Rapids got two full minutes of a 5-on-3 and scored twice with the two-man advantage to tie the game early in the third. First Olvecky went for boarding, and then Murphy was called for slashing. At the same time, Clayton Stoner
was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Helmer’s seventh goal got the Griffins within 4-3 at 5:54, when he rifled a shot from the point through traffic and by Harding. At 7:03, Hudler tied things up, putting a rebound by the goalie for his 19th of the season.
The Aeros then went shorthanded by two men, yet again, for 33 seconds as the Aeros finished a string of four minor penalties in a stretch of 3:23. Hudler’s second in a 56-second span put the Griffins ahead at 7:59, as he took a cross-crease pass from Eric Himelfarb and deposited it by Harding. The goal came just two seconds after one man was released from the box.
All told, the Griffins, third in the league on the power play, scored three goals in a 2:05 span while enjoying 3:32 of consecutive time with a two-man advantage.
Harding robbed Hudler of the natural hat trick with 9:49 left, drawing the crowd to its feed as the goalie flashed leather on a shot destined for the top shelf.
The Aeros finally went on the man advantage again with 9:12 remaining, snapping a string of seven straight Grand Rapids power plays. It was Houston’s first power play since beginning the second period with 40 seconds of the man advantage.
Foy rebounded a Murphy miss with 8:34 left, on that power play, as he tied the game with his third of the season.
Houston went right back on the power play with 6:55 remaining, when Nate DiCasmirro went for hooking. Howard swallowed a Reitz bullet from the top of the right circle on Houston’s best chance.
The Aeros’ Dustin Wood was called for holding with 3:12 left, giving the Griffins their 10th power play and fifth of the third period. Filpulla beat Harding after slipping behind the defense with 2:17 remaining in regulation.
The teams collected at the buzzer, with Bootland in the middle. However, only Westrum and teammate Joey Tetarenko picked up penalties. They each got 10-minute misconducts, with Westrum also getting a roughing minor.
Houston finished 2-for-7 on the power play, while Grand Rapids went 5-for-10. The Aeros are 10-of-29 with the man advantage versus the Griffins this season. Notes: Not dressing for the Aeros were Miroslav Kopriva, Scott Ferguson, Joel Ward and Andrei Nazarov. Murray has a season-long four-game point streak (2-3=5). Houston had outscored its opponents 12-3 in the third period of its eight-game winning streak but was outscored 5-1 tonight. The Aeros fell to 25-2-0-0 when scoring three goals or more. Grand Rapids owns a stifling 64-35 third-period advantage in goals, the best of any AHL team. Nine of the last 12 meetings between the teams have been decided by one goal. Hudler and Westrum are now tied for the league lead with 50 points, with Law one back in a thrilling race.