Grand Rapids Drops Snoozer in Shootout 2-1|
Oulahen scores only goal in loss...
By Jason Kasiorek
The AHL's second best offense, so far this season, ran out of gas as the Grand Rapids Griffins dropped a 2-1 decision to the Syracuse Crunch. A key culprit was an 0 for 6 powerplay that did not generate many shots, let alone quality chances in the contest. Ryan Oulahen had the lone goal for the Griffins who were unable to get a shot past Crunch netminder Steve Mason in the shootout. Jimmy Howard took the loss for the home team despite stopping 23 of 24 shots in the game.
The Griffins looked like a completely different team tonight, and not in a good way. The pace of the first period was slow and plodding with neither team really getting anything going. GR doesn't seem to have the same jump they have had the last few games. Part of that can be attributed to the Crunch playing well, but the Griffins did not play with the same passion either. A couple of chances in the second half of the period on the powerplay went by the way side as the team seemed unable to get set up, and then chose low percentage shots that didn't make it to the net. Shots on Goal: GR 13 - Syr 10.
Syracuse broke the deadlock early in the second, taking advantage of a Griffins turnover to spring a 2-on-0 break in on Howard with Nikita Filatov converting for the 1-0 lead. Grand Rapids tied things up just past the halfway mark of the period when Ryan Oulahen took an Abdlekader pass and crashed the net, tucking the puck under Mason, glove-side. Speedy Darren Helm had a chance to put the home team ahead a few minutes later when he got a breakaway pass, beat Mason, but rang it off the post. Shots on Goal: GR 10 - Syr 9.
Neither side looked to be able to generate much in the way of sustained pressure at either end of the ice. The Griffins started to wind up the intensity in the second half, putting a few decent shots on Mason, and as time wound down they were carrying the play. Mursak and Pare had a couple of solid chances as they were given a little more ice late in the game. The two slick puck handlers really showed some dynamic moves and good chemistry as time wound down. Shots on goal: GR 8 - Syr 4.
A Justin Abdelkader penalty (his third of the game) left the Griffins shorthanded during the overtime for a minute (the new AHL rule being tried out this year, one minute penalties in OT), but the penalty killers were able to run out the clock. Emmerton set up a couple of nice chances with Ritola, but it was on to the shootout. Shots on goal: GR 2 - Syr 1. For the Game: GR 33 - Syr 25.
Landon Wilson went first for GR and ripped a shot off Mason's pad. York followed for the Crunch but missed the net wide. Ville Leino tried to go five-hole, but Mason read it and closed the door. Filatov made a little move and fired a shot past Howard high, stick-side to put the Crunch up by one. Ritola tried to deke out Mason in the next round but the puck rolled off his stick and was blown dead as he tried to score on a rebound. Mayorov went next for Syracuse, blazing in on Howard and scoring between his legs to put the Crunch up by 2. Haydar was next for GR and made a nifty move but watched the puck roll off Mason's pad to end the game. 2-1 Shootout Victory for the Crunch.
Leino - Helm - Haydar
Mursak - Pare - Abdelkader
Ritola - Emmerton - Wilson
Gagnon - Oulahen - Downey
Ericsson - Jozsa
Kindl - Galvin
Stafford - Kolosov
Leino - Helm -Abdelkader
Haydar - Ericsson
Ritola - Emmerton - Wilson
Kindl - Stafford
Ritola - Emmerton
Ericsson - Galvin
Leino - Helm
Kindl - Stafford
Mursak - Abdelkader
Oulahen - Gagnon
Jonathan Ericsson had one of his least impressive nights as a Griffin, as he looked noticably lacsidasical and did not display his normal intensity. He did not take the body or jump into the play despite several opportunities to do both. At one point I was wondering whether he was hurt, because he did not engage at all. Hopefully it was just an off night, and not moping over not being in the NHL. There was some talk in TC about him taking it easy since he had no shot of playing in the NHL this season.
Cory Emmerton had a tough night with the puck, but seemed to improve in the latter stages of the game and OT. Sometimes the young guys try to force plays and do to much on their own, and have to learn to depend on their teammates.
Great to see Oulahen get a clutch goal, going to the net. He really appears to be bearing down a little more and showed some grit crashing the crease. If he can keep his offensive surge going along with his defensive game, he could be looking at an NHL look see in the near future.
It was fun watching Leino during the warmups, working on his own drills. While a lot of the players skated around and shot pucks at the net, he showed off his hand-eye coordination, bouncing a puck on the blade of his stick, and then off his skate blade numerous times without the puck touching the ice. He did this while skating around through traffic - wow!
Defenseman PJ Atherton was sent to Las Vegas (ECHL) today leaving the team with 7 defenseman. With Gelech being a healthy scratch for the 5th time in 6 games, and the team still a little top heavy with forwards, another move is not far behind.