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Abdelkader Leads Griffins Over Marlies In OT 3-2
Rookie forward scores two goals including OT game winner...
By Jason Kasiorek

Grand Rapids got out to an early lead, let Toronto back in late and then won it in overtime to record their 26th victory of the season. Justin Abdelkader had a pair of powerplay goals including the overtime marker while Darren Haydar rang up his 500th and 501st pro points with a pair of assists. Frankie Pare scored the other GR goal, his 15th of the season, before leaving the game due to injury. Goaltender Jimmy Howard amde 24 saves for the win, outdueling nemesis Justin Pogge.

Grand Rapids got off to a good start, playing with more energy than the last home game, and taking it to the Marlies. With Foster in the box for slashing, the man advantage unit went to work. Abdelkader in front converted a Ritola point shot past Pogge for a 1-0 lead just three and a half minutes into the game. The Marlies had a great chance to tie things up up shortly after that when Logan Pyett coughed up the puck right in front of the net to Newberry but Howard came up with a save. Darren Haydar made a great play to set up a two on one with Pare. Frankie shot down the wing and went to the net where Haydar hit him with a perfect pass for a back door goal, 2-0 Grand Rapids. Toronto tried to pick up the physical game with lots of late hits and scrums after the whistle. Abdelkader in particular was feisty and in the middle of a lot of the confrontations. The low moment of the period happened when Mursak was hit high in front of the net and lay on the ice unmoving for a long time before being escorted to the dressing room - he did not return. Shots on Goal: GR 10 - Tor 6.

Toronto picked up where they left off, resulting in a steady stream of Marlies to the penalty box including a couple of 5-on-3 advantages. Tardif squared off with Boyce and dropped the gloves, but slipped and went down hard early. The Griffins were unable to get much going with the man advantage and you could feel the frustration set in. The Marlies fed off that and started to press the puck more, even getting some nice chances while shorthanded. Shots on Goal: GR 13 - Tor 11.

The pace had really slowed down in the third as Toronto was now dictating play. Bell broke the goose egg for the Marlies midway through the third on a feed from Newberry. Frankie Pare took a big hit along the side boards and stayed down for a long time being attended to by the trainer. Eventually he got up but wasn't able to skate off without a lot of help - He did not return. Ondrus took a penalty for slashing, but an irate Downey skated over and had some words, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and negating the powerplay. Battaglia capped the comeback with four minutes left, on a nice individual effort. The Marlies' forward got the puck and brought it right out in front before firing a shot past Howard. Shots on Goal: GR 4 - Tor 5.

Leino took hooking penalty in overtime, but the penalty killers were up to the task and killed it off. Leino came out of the box and took a breakaway pass from Oulahen. The Finnish phenom had a couple of pokes at it but could not get it past Pogge. The Marlies took a hooking penalty soon after, setting up the Griffins fro the winner. Ritola put a shot on net from the circle that Pogge stopped, but Abdelkader crashed the crease to make sure it was in for his 14th of the season and the win. Shots on Goal: GR 3 - Tor 4. For the Game: GR 30 - Tor 26.

Mursak - Abdelkader - Ritola
Leino - Emmerton - Tardif
Haydar - Pare - McGrath
Lemeiux/Emmerton/Leino - Oulahen - Downey

Kolosov - Pyett
Stafford - Jozsa
Kindl - Galvin

Starter: Howard
Backup: Larsson

Helm - Charley Horse
Ericsson - Shoulder/upper body

Haydar/Ritola - Abdelkader - Mursak
Kindl - Ritola/Haydar

Leino - Emmerton - Tardif
Stafford - Galvin

Lemieux - Pare - McGrath

Lemieux - Oulahen
Kolosov - Stafford

Haydar - McGrath
Jozsa - Galvin

Leino - Emmerton


GR got lucky tonight, they have to stop sitting back after they get the lead. With the team's lack of sucess in the extra frame they were lucky to convert this one for the win.

Darren Haydar was on his game last night. The captain was engaging players and winning the one-on-one battles for position and possession most of the night. He really looked energized playing with Pare and hopefully it means that he is finally starting to warm up.

Speaking of Pare, another strong night for the rookie center playing with McGrath and Haydar. Hopefully he is alright after that nasty hit along the boards, the team cannot afford to be without its hottest scorer for very long.

Fraser did a good job of juggling the lines for tonight's game. Abdelkader and Ritola really seemed to feed off each other well in addition to the success fo the new Pare line.

Ryan Oulahen must have played half of the third period. With the team short two forwards and trying to stop the Marlie's momentum, Oulahen was getting double and triple shifted with a variety of wingers. The upshot of this was that Abdelkader and Ritola sat a few shifts and appeared fresher for the overtime.

Official Game Sheet