By Michael Caples –
Despite a series of strange events and the Syracuse Crunch managing to keep the game close every time the visitors tried to pull away, the Grand Rapids Griffins will still return home with a 2-0 series lead.
The Griffins picked up a 6-4 win over the Crunch Sunday evening in Syracuse, which means a two-game lead in their best-of-seven AHL Finals series – with Games 3 through 5 to be played at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.
Tomas Tatar, Triston Grant, Landon Ferraro, Tomas Jurco, Francis Pare and Jan Mursak all scored for Grand Rapids, while Petr Mrazek stopped 15 shots for his 13th win of the postseason.
Yet it was the Crunch’s final goal of the contest – recorded late in the second period – which is the goal that will be talked about for the duration of the Calder Cup Finals.
With under four minutes to go in the middle frame (the scorekeepers were having some difficulty getting the exact time worked out), Syracuse’s J.T. Brown fired a shot past Mrazek that apparently ripped through the netting behind the Griffins’ goaltender. Play continued for multiple minutes before a stoppage of play to allow the referees a chance for video review. The trip to the replay screen left everyone confused, as they thought the referees were reviewing a breakaway chance for the Griffins that was clearly not a goal.
Video review proved that Brown had indeed scored, tying the game at four goals apiece, and sending the fans at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena into a frenzy.
They would be quieted in a hurry, however, as Pare scored in the midst of a scramble in front of the Crunch goal to regain the lead for the Griffins.
Mursak recorded the only goal in the third period, beating Syracuse netminder Cedrick Desjardins with a deke to the backhand at the 14:56 mark of the final frame.
Both teams scored two power-play goals in Game 2, yet the Crunch had eight man-advantage opportunities, compared to the Griffins’ five.
Tatar gave the Griffins the first lead 4:29 into Game 2, firing a shot from the left face-off dot past Desjardins off a pass from Gustav Nyquist.
Seven minutes later, Grant knocked in a rebound off a shot from Ferraro to increase Grand Rapids’ lead to two.
After the Crunch cut the Griffins’ lead in half, Ferraro scored six minutes into the second period, capitalizing on the rebound left from a breakaway by captain Jeff Hoggan.
Again, the Crunch would make it a one-goal game, and again, the Griffins increased their lead to two. A goal from Jurco went to video review, but the referees determined that the Griffins forward’s sneaky backhand hit the back crossbar and bounced out of the net.
Two goals from the Crunch – the latter being the puck-through-netting incident – evened the score until Pare netted the game-winner.
Game 3 will take place Wednesday night in Grand Rapids. Opening face-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.