From: Ryan Stanzel
Director of Communications
Sunday, January 23, 2005
713.361.7930 (Direct Line) Griffins 4, Aeros 3 SOOfficial Box ScoreHOUSTON, Texas
Joey MacDonald made 46 saves and Eric Himelfarb followed a regulation goal with the game-winner in the shootout, as the Grand Rapids Griffins held off the Houston Aeros 4-3 at Toyota Center. Kip Miller and Brett Lebda also scored for Grand Rapids, which has won two straight after a 1-10-0-1 stretch.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard forced overtime with 5:42 left in regulation, and he and Mikko Koivu each tallied a goal and an assist for Houston, which is unbeaten in regulation in its last three (2-0-0-1). Erik Reitz scored his first goal of the season and Mike Smith made 18 saves for Houston.
The Aeros, who outshot Grand Rapids 49-22, play host to first-place and defending Calder Cup champion Milwaukee on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.
Grand Rapids led 3-1 after two, but Houston scored twice in the third period to force overtime.
Koivu got Houston within 3-2 at 4:04 of the third, as Stephane Veilleux lost his stick, but the puck came right to Koivu between the circles. Koivu deked MacDonald to the ground, then lifted a shot over the fallen netminder for his 12th goal of the season and fifth in the last four games.
MacDonald was at his best midway through the third. Within a minute, he kicked out Koivus rocketing attempt for a second goal from the top of the left circle, and he then made back-to-back saves on Marc Cavosie and Mark Cullen, the latter a shot that appeared destined for the back of the net.
The Aeros were able to solve MacDonald again and bring the crowd to its feet with 5:42 left in regulation. Bouchard, who just stayed on-side as he crossed the blueline, took a cross-ice pass from Kirby Law on the right wing and slid it underneath the goalies pads.
Early in overtime, MacDonald stood his ground and stoned Reitz on a near breakaway. He also kicked out a John Erskine rocket, and barely got a piece of a Ray Giroux offering from the left circle.
Smith came out of his net midway through overtime to interrupt a would-be breakaway, and then he barely recovered in time to steer a Bryan Helmer shot from the neutral zone inches wide of the net. Eric Manlow had a good 3-on-2 attempt from just inside the blueline with a minute left, but Smith pushed it aside.
In the first round of the shootout, Smith kept Miller out of the net, and Koivu ripped a shot over the net. In round two, Himelfarb went five-hole on Smith for a goal, and MacDonald robbed Bouchard. Smith then gloved aside a Nicklas Kronwall attempt, but MacDonald stopped Rickard Wallin with his chest.
Todd Robinson ripped a shot off the crossbar and into the net in round four, putting Houston on the brink of elimination. The goal was not originally called a goal. Houstons Cullen then rang a shot off the post, clinching the Grand Rapids victory.
Grand Rapids took the lead 6:29 into the game, on its third shot. Brent Kelly, along the right wing boards, held the puck patiently as Lebda cut backdoor from the left point. Lebda snuck behind the Aeros defense and tapped a cross-ice pass from Kelly into the net for his first goal of the season in 40 games.
Houston went on a five-minute power play, including 47 seconds of 5-on-3 time, midway through the first after Darryl Bootland whacked Koivu with a high stick along the boards. Koivu went to the bench bloodied and battered but returned to the ice near the end of the power play.
Zbynek Michalek bounced a shot just wide of the net a minute into the man advantage.
Grand Rapids killed off all but 28 seconds of the power play, but with 4:20 left in the first Reitz found the net for the first time in his 33rd game. Bouchard fed Reitz, who wound up at the point and beat a screened MacDonald for his first goal since April 1, 2004. Koivu picked up the second assist, stretching his point streak to six games, the longest such streak by an Aero this season.
It took the Griffins more than eight seconds for their first shot in the second period, but they then scored on two straight shots less than three minutes apart.
At 8:02, Nathan Robinson sprung Miller for a breakaway from along the left boards at center ice. The veteran, in his 10th game of the season after joining the Griffins in January, went five-hole on Smith for his first goal.
Grand Rapids also scored on its second shot, at the 10:58 mark. With Derek Boogaard in the box for a boarding penalty, Miller popped a shot straight up in the air from the low right circle. The rebound ended up coming down on the left doorstop. No one saw it but Himelfarb, who quickly swooped in and tapped the puck into an empty net for his 11th of the season and third in the last two games.
The Aeros did have some good chances in the second period and 17 shots total but MacDonald was perfect. Early on, he stretched across the crease to stop a wobbler from Law, and he turned aside a Kyle Wanvig attempt at a bouncing puck with two minutes remaining.
Houston went 1-for-6 on the power play, while Grand Rapids finished 1-for-1.
Reitz was previously credited with a goal this season on December 18, but it later went to Marius Holtet.
Smith made his 18th straight appearance, extending his franchise record. Josh Harding again backed up.