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Larsson Stands Tall In 3-2 OT Loss
Marlies spoil Chelios' AHL debut...
By Jason Kasiorek

The story of the night was supposed to be the AHL debut of three time Stanley Cup champion Chris Chelios, assigned by Detroit on a conditioning assignment. But by the end of it, Swedish netminder Daniel Larsson had stolen the headlines with a stunning 38 save performance, narrowly falling in OT to the Toronto Marlies. For large parts of the game, Larsson was the only reason his team was still in the game as they were outplayed and outshot in every period. Darren Helm notched his 6th of the year, and Jamie Tardif his 4th in the losing effort. Chris Chelios ended the game with his first AHL point, an assist, and also took a penalty in overtime leading to the Marlies winning goal.

Grand Rapids spent most of the first trying to get the puck out of their own end with varying degrees of success. They looked very sloppy and out of sync, passes in the skates or to nobody, frequent offsides, and a lack of energy. The Griffins had a scare late in the period with Larsson lying in the crease, a Marlies scoring chance hit him and lay in the paint for a moment before the defensemen cleared it out. Shots on Goal: GR 11 - Tor 12.

Tlusty put the road team ahead two minutes into the second when he re-directed a Newberry centering pass between Larsson's legs from the top of the crease for a rare powerplay goal. The Griffins are being badly outplayed by Toronto, and their powerplay is ineffective, not generating any good scoring chances. Helm evened things up late in the period on the powerplay, taking a cross-ice feed from Stafford at the side of the net and cranking it in high, stick-side. The Marlies struck back two minutes later when Larsson made the initial stop and then two Marlies players were allowed to whack and poke at it until they jammed it loose and over the line. A big scrum broke out a few minutes later and it looked like a couple of fights may break out, but cooler heads prevailed. Shots on Goal: GR 5 - Tor 14.

The Griffins tied things up halfway through the third when Tardif ripped a shot off the rush that hit Pogge and ricocheted up in the air and back down behind him for a goal. Grand Rapids started to come on after this, showing the most life they had in the game. The Griffins killed off a four minute high sticking penalty to Ritola in the the late stages of the game, sending it to OT. Shots on Goal: GR 8 - Tor 12.

Chelios had the puck bounce over his stick at the line, and it was picked up by a Marlies forward. Chris battled him all the way down the ice before finally taking a penalty trying to strip the puck from him. The Griffins killed off the penalty, but as Cheli stepped out of the box, William fired a wicked wrister from the slot that Larsson thought was in his glove, but had already beaten him. Shots on Goal: GR 0 - Tor 3. For the Game: GR 24 - Chi 41.

Oulahen - Gagnon - Mursak
Leino - Helm - Haydar
Ritola - Emmerton - Tardif
McGrath - Abdelkader - Downey

Ericsson - Chelios
Galvin - Kindl
Stafford - Kolosov

Starter: Larsson
Backup: Howard

Lemieux - Knee

Leino - Abdelkader - Helm
Stafford - Kindl

Ritola - Emmerton - Tardif
Haydar - Chelios/Ericsson

Ritola - Abdelkader/Emmerton
Ericsson - Chelios

Stafford - Kindl

Oulahen - Gagnon


Chelios had a lot of jump during the warmups and early on. What he didn't have was a lot of stamina, as he ran out of gas fast, taking very short shifts, sometimes just 20 seconds. He looked a bit wobbly at first, but seemed to pick up some steam in the latter stages of the game. At one point in the first, the veteran defenseman seemed to injure himself, and had a bit of a hitch in his stride for the next few shifts. He started throwing some checks (just a couple) in the second and third, and looked to be getting his legs under him in the third. As was to be expected he had a rough time handling the puck (so did a lot of the other Griffins!), but again, looked to be improving as the game went on. Tomorrow night should paint a better picture.

Darren Helm was all wound up and trying to make things happen, one of the few Griffins that looked to have any energy.

It was nice to see Ville Leino go the net a few times tonight. After knocking him for not competing the last stretch, the finnish forward was much more involved, and took a beating around the net for it.

Kindl looked very confident with and without the puck. A couple of times I noticed him challenging the puck carrier, standing him up, taking the puck away, and sending it up ice.

I also have to mention again the sterling 38 save performance by Larsson who really was the only reason this team got the point in overtime, and with a little luck, or a whistle on the second goal, he could have gotten a win.

Official Game Sheet