GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
Pierre-Marc Bouchards (picture by Bob Levey) second goal of the game 2:44 into overtime lifted the Houston Aeros to a thrilling, come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena. Junior Lessard and Stephane Veilleux also scored for Houston, which got all four goals from Quebec natives. The Aeros trailed 2-0 entering the third period and improved to 3-1-0-1 on a season-long six-game road trip that ends Saturday in Grand Rapids.
Houstons Josh Harding outdueled fellow rookie Drew MacIntyre with 31 saves, improving to 2-4-1. Entering the game, the Aeros were averaging 1.80 goals per game in Hardings starts, but they came through tonight in Houstons sixth straight one-goal game, two off the franchise record. The Aeros have gone to overtime in three of their last four games, and in five of 11 overall this season.
MacIntyre, seeing his first live action since last November 29, was courageous with 45 saves in defeat. Nathan Robinson had a goal and an assist in a two-goal second period, and Travis Richards and Niklas Kronwall also scored for Grand Rapids, which is winless in three straight (0-2-1-0).
Houston, winless a season ago when trailing after two periods, now has two such victories this season.
The Aeros trailed 2-0 after two, but Lessards tiebreaking goal with 3:39 left in regulation appeared to lift Houston to a regulation victory.
But after Cavosies empty-net goal attempt floated just wide, Kronwall sent the game into overtime with 19 seconds left. Eric Himelfarb won a faceoff in front of Harding back to Kronwall, who rifled the puck through a screen and by Harding for his fourth goal of the season.
The tally was the ninth this season against Houston in either the first or last two minutes of a period. The Aeros, meanwhile, have just one such goal.
The wild third period saw 34 total shots 20 by the Aeros.
Houston struggled offensively for most of the overtime session, but Bouchard took advantage of a key mistake by MacIntyre to give his team the victory. MacIntyre misplayed a Veilleux shot in the low slot, and Bouchard tapped the puck into the net for his second of the game and third of the season.
Bouchard, who played 111 NHL games over the past two seasons in Minnesota, is Houstons leading scorer with 10 points (3-7=10).
The Aeros controlled play for much of the first two periods, holding a 26-19 advantage in shots but with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard except a 2-0 deficit.
Houston got the first goal back on the power play just 2:39 into the third. Patrick Traverse and Ray Giroux each had attempts, but Bouchard crashed the net and pushed a rebound past MacIntyre for his second goal of the season. The Griffins argued that the puck was kicked in the net, but to no avail. Giroux, who finished the night with two assists, notched his 200th AHL point on the play.
Grand Rapids Tomas Kopecky nearly put the Griffins back in front by two shortly after, but he rang a shot off the post.
Houston knotted the score at 2-2 with 7:44 left in regulation, thanks to great hustle by the line of Veilleux, Cavosie and Matt Foy. Giroux fed Foy, who streaked into the zone on the left side. Foy sent a cross-ice saucer pass to Veilleux, who backhanded it by MacIntyre for his third goal of the season.
The Aeros took their first lead with 3:39 remaining, as Lessard tallied his first point in six games. Houstons John Erskine (two assists) started the winning play with a pokecheck at his own blueline on a Grand Rapids 3-on-2. At the other end, Kirby Laws attempt was blocked in front, but the reigning Hobey Baker winner pounced on the rebound and rammed it into the back of the net for his second pro goal.
MacIntyre, 21, hadnt played a game since last November 29 with ECHL Toledo, and he deserved a better fate. The AHL rookie missed the remainder of the season with a hernia and established a new Grand Rapids record for saves at Van Andel Arena.
Early on, neither youngster showed any effects of being thrown into the fire of the intense rivalry.
Houston got five of the games first six shots, but Grand Rapids wasnt without its chances in the opening period. Harding blocked Kronwalls power-play rocket with his shoulder to keep the game scoreless seven minutes in.
Grand Rapids broke on top 1-0 at 5:11 of the second, after an Aeros penalty expired. Robinson took a loose puck, danced around a defender and lifted a shot high blocker side past Harding
Houston started to control play in the middle part of the second, outshooting the Griffins 12-3 when Zbynek Michalek was called for a double minor (holding and unsportsmanlike conduct).
The Aeros eventually got it back to 4-on-4, but thats when the Griffins built a two-goal lead with 5:47 left. Matt Ellis bounced the puck to Richards from behind the net, and the veteran slid it by Harding for his first point in eight games this season.
The Aeros finished 1-for-4 on the power play, while Grand Rapids went 0-for-6.
Veilleux overtook Curtis Murphy for first place on the Aeros AHL shots list with 479. Murphy had 475.
Bouchard has a hand in seven of Houstons 11 power-play goals this season.
Houstons Derek Boogaard has a penalty in each of his 10 games, the longest such streak in the league this season.
The Aeros didnt allow a first-period goal for just the second time in 11 games. Houston has yielded an AHL-high 16 first-period goals.
Houston has won three straight versus the Griffins for just the second time since the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons.
The Aeros 49 shots were a season-high.
Erskine had two assists for the first time in his career, and he tallied two points for just the second time first since October 10, 2001.
The Aeros and Griffins had gone 17 games without overtime, the longest such streak between Houston and any opponent.
Houston already has three road wins against teams with better than a .500 record, matching what they had last season.