Howards' Return Keys Shootout Win Over Rochester 4-3|
All-Star Netminder Returns Two Weeks Early From Injury...
By Jason Kasiorek
The surprise return of all-star netminder Jimmy Howard buoyed a sinking Griffins team to a 4-3 shootout victory at Van Andel arena. Howard stopped 27 of 30 shots he faced and all five shooters for the Americans to notch his 14th win of the season. Grand Rapids, 2-4-1-3 in it's last ten games got goals from Hartigan (17), Corazzini (13) and Kindl (3) in regulation, while Cullen got the only tally needed in the shootout.
Grand Rapids broke a scoreless deadlock late in the third on the powerplay on a great play in front by sniper Mark Hartigan. Swedish rearguard Jonathan Ericsson carried the puck to the side of the net and dished to Hartigan in front who chipped the puck over Dennis from the edge of the paint. With Grand Rapids killing off a holding penalty late in the period, Cullen broke his stick, leaving Howard to come up with a huge series of saves. Cullen goes to the box for "throwing the stick", an unbelievable penalty for throwing down his broken stick, setting up a 5 on 3 powerplay for the Amerk's. Meech challenges a point shot by Meyer, but only succeeds in screening Howard, who allows a goal to tie things up. Shots on goal: GR 5 - Roc 11.
In the second Grand Rapids is given the gift of a five-minute powerplay, courtesy of a major penalty for high-sticking Kyle Quincey. The Griffins are unable to get anything going with the man advantage, only mustering two shots on goal during the five minutes. But shortly after the penalty ends, Meyer scores his second of the game, on a play that Howard would probably like back. Shots on goal: GR 13 - Roc 9.
The Griffins came began their normal third period surge early in the period when Corazzini batted a puck out of midair past Dennis, stick-side, from right in front. Rookie Jakub Kindl gave the Griffins the lead midway through the period when he blasted a fluttering point shot that went through traffic and clanked off the bar into the net. With time running out, Rochester pulled Dennis and stunned the home crowd by scoring with 29.5 seconds on the clock. The Amerk's had multiple chances right in front, but nobody cleared the puck or the crease and eventually Mancari banged it home for the equalizer. Shots on goal: GR 8 -Roc 8.
Both teams had a couple of chances in the scoreless overtime. Shots on Goal: GR 2 - Roc 2. For the Game: GR 29 - Roc 30.
Meyer started the shootout by ringing a shot off Jimmy's blocker, followed by Dennis making a glove save on Hartigan. Gragnani started off the second round but hit the post. Corazzini sped in on net and was stopped with a stick save by Dennis. Mancari made a little move but missed the net to keep it scoreless. Cullen went in on Dennis, slowed down and ripped the puck into the net to put GR up by one. Zagrapan tried to go around Howard who just steered the puck aside. McGrath was the fourth shooter for GR and he never got a hot after Dennis came way out and made a diving poke check. Aston was the last shooter for the Amerk's, but he didn't get a shot off as the puck rolled off his stick.
Corazzini - Hartigan - Ritola
Helm - Cullen - Gelech/Engelhardt
Oulahen - McGrath - Tardif
Galvin/Kindl - Meech
Ericsson - Insana
Stafford - Quincey
Note: Coach Stothers dressed 7 defensemen so the pairings changed a lot.
Ference - Wrist
Tardif - Hartigan - Corazzini
Meech - Stafford
Oulahen/Helm - Cullen - Engelhardt
Ericsson - Kindl
Tardif - Oulahen
Insana/Galvin - Meech
Corazzini - Cullen
Stafford - Quincey
Hartigan - Helm
Say Goodbye to Derek Meech, who returned to Detroit after this game. His stint here was played to mixed reviews, but he was a steadying force on the blueline and seemed to exude confidence and leadership, two qualities in short supply here.
Despite scoring a big goal in the third, Kindl looked to have taken a step back this game. He looked very unsure of what to do, and flubbed the puck several times including an infamous turnover at the point on the powerplay.
Randall Gelech was almost invisible early in the game, and didn't see the ice much at all in the latter stages of the game.
Darren Helm had a good game, intimidating the Rochester defense with his speed. he had several dangerous chances, and drew extra coverage most shifts, opening up ice for his linemates.
Engelhardt seemed to get stronger as the game went on, he really shined in the third period when he used to his bidy to keep the puck in the zone, and paid a price to go to the net. Not coincidentally, after alternating with Gelech the first half, his hard work earned him a regular shift in the third.
It was a pleasant surprise to see Jimmy Howard in the nets tonight, and looked to be suffering no ill effects form his injured hand. He stopped all five shooters in the shootout to preserve the win, his 14th of the season, moving him back to .500.
Something was in the air tonight as the Wings brass was on hand in nearly record numbers. Among the masses on hand: Mark Howe, Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Jim Bedard and Jiri Fischer just to name a few. A change is coming, and since it is unlikely they will fire the coach, it will likely be player related. It would not be surprising for an announcement on Darren McCarty to come soon...