In the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins’ post-Jared Coreau era got off to a bumpy start. Tom McCollum stopped 16 of 19 shots and was replaced by Matej Machovsky with the Chicago Wolves leading 3-0.
The Griffins tried to rally twice, on goals from Eric Tangradi (3-1) and Ben Street (4-2), but the Griffins gave up an empty-netter and ultimately lost 5-2.
The loss snapped an 11-game point streak for Grand Rapids, as noted by the Griffins website’s recap:
Chicago Wolves 5 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2
Feb. 21, 2018
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – On the strength of three power play goals, the Chicago Wolves put an end to the Grand Rapids Griffins’ 11-game point streak with a 5-2 victory on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins had not lost in regulation in more than a month, posting a 9-0-0-2 record since Jan. 19, but they suffered just their fourth loss in their last 25 games (18-4-0-3) to a Wolves squad that is now 21-5-2-1 in its last 29 outings. As a result, Chicago leapfrogged Grand Rapids into a tie with the Iowa Wild for second place in the Central Division standings, with the Griffins dropping into the fourth and final playoff position for the time being.
Chicago’s 3-for-4 performance with the man-advantage was powered by three-point nights by Brandon Pirri (2-1—3) and Beau Bennett (1-2—3), while Oscar Dansk made 39 saves between the Wolves’ pipes and helped stifle three of Grand Rapids’ four power play chances.
Following two shutout wins at Manitoba last week and tonight’s loss to Chicago, the Griffins will continue their tour of the Central Division’s aristocracy this weekend when they host a pair against Iowa on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m.
Former Griffins great Teemu Pulkkinen set up the Wolves’ first goal during a power play 7:25 into the opening period. From the top of the right circle, he sent a slap pass to the left faceoff dot to a wide-open Bennett, who waited a moment before blowing a shot between Tom McCollum’s blocker and the near post.
Keegan Kolesar handed Grand Rapids (28-19-1-6) its first two-goal deficit since Jan. 17 at the 4:37 mark of the second period, as he took a backhanded swipe at a puck along the right goal line, banking it off the inside of McCollum’s right knee and across the line. When Pirri began a power play by wristing a shot past McCollum’s glove from the top of the circles 1:14 later off a clean faceoff win, it put the Griffins in a three-goal hole for the first time since Dec. 15 – a 6-3 home loss to these same Wolves – and spelled the end of the night for Grand Rapids’ netminder on 16 saves.
With the Griffins being out-shot 9-0 for the period and 19-8 for the game, highly touted prospect Matej Machovsky entered in relief, marking the AHL debut for the Czech Republic native who signed a one-year contract with Detroit last May. Machovsky led the ECHL with a 2.02 goals against average and ranked third on the circuit with a .928 save percentage before being reassigned on Tuesday from the Toledo Walleye, following Jared Coreau’s recall to the Red Wings.
Dan Renouf injected some life into the Griffins and the crowd on the next shift by fighting Kolesar, and Machovsky steadied the ship by turning away all six Chicago shots over the remainder of the frame, including a point-blank save on Bryce Gervais early in his tenure and a slick left pad stop on T.J. Tynan’s one-timer minutes later.
Eric Tangradi made it a 3-1 game by scoring his team-leading 22nd goal 1:57 before intermission. After Ben Street forced a turnover below the right goal line, Evgeny Svechnikov picked up the puck and immediately centered it to the doorstep, where Tangradi popped it into the left corner.
Chicago (27-17-6-2) reasserted its three-goal cushion 19 seconds into the third, with Pirri tallying his second power play goal of the night on a deflection from just outside the crease. Street got it back with 4:40 remaining by redirecting a Svechnikov shot for Grand Rapids’ only power play tally of the evening, but the Griffins could not pull any closer despite pulling Machovsky for an extra attacker with 3:09 remaining. Kolesar tallied his second goal into the empty net at 18:12 for the final margin.
Machovsky stopped 14 of 15 shots in 32:48 of work for the Griffins, who out-gunned Chicago 33-16 from the point at which he entered the game.
Notes: The Wolves have won the last four meetings to improve to 5-2 in the season series…The previous clash of these clubs, a 2-0 Wolves win in Chicago on Jan. 6, saw the Griffins’ five-game winning streak and seven-game point run (6-0-0-1) snapped.
Three Stars: 1. CHI Pirri (two power play goals, assist); 2. CHI Bennett (power play goal, two assists); 3. GR Street (power play goal, assist)
The Griffins also posted a photo gallery, a highlight clip and an interview clip:
“I think it was a little bit better when I was jumping into the game and not thinking about it,” Machovsky said. “Just going in and not playing hockey.”
Nelson figured the Griffins needed a spark, especially since they didn’t have a shot.
“We had to wake up and usually with a goalie change that happens,” he said, noting McCollum’s second goal in the period “was probably one he wanted to have back. So, it was an easy decision just based on how we were playing.”
“It was tough for him, but we have confidence in Matej; he’s played well in Toledo,” said defenseman Brian Lashoff. “He went in and played well tonight and gave us a chance to get back in the game.”
Machovsky has been hot with the Toledo Walleye, winning four of his past six with an 11-9-1 record and two shutouts in 21 games. He leads the ECHL with a 2.02 GAA and is third with a ,928 save percentage.
Before joining the Red Wings organization last May, Machovsky had four strong seasons with Pizen HC in Czech Extralia, with a GAA no higher than 2.42 in at least 36 games played each year.
Wallner continues, and he posted a video of Machovsky’s post-game comments, too:
Elsewhere, in the Swedish Allsvenskan, Gustav Lindstrom played on the second defensive pairing in Almtuna IS’s 9-0 loss (really) to Leksands IF;
Mattias Elfstrom did not manage to get on the scoresheet playing on Vasterviks IK’s fourth line as Vasterviks IK won 7-4 over AIK Stockholm;
Malte Setkov played on the fourth defensive pair as IK Pantern won 2-1 over IF Bjorkloven;
Michael Rasmussen had a goal and an assist, finishing even on 6 shots and going 9-for-18 on faceoffs as the Tri-City Americans won 4-2 over Seattle. Rasmussen was named the game’s second star.