By Jason Iacona | PPPShow.net Corespondent | On Twitter: @nafsnep
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — The mantra of this series is that if you gave the Grand Rapids Griffins an inch, they took a mile. The very fact that they have the mighty Syracuse Crunch on the brink of elimination proves that.
The roles were reversed in Western Michigan tonight.
A two point game by RW Richard Panik, and the Syracuse Crunch win 3-2 and live to see another game.
That game, Game 5, is Saturday night in Grand Rapids.
The Crunch open the game by firing the first four shots at Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek 1:31 into the contest. The Crunch get a power play. Grand Rapids responds with a huge power play, then moments later Joakim Andersson opens the scoring from the right wing to bring the raucous crowd of 10,834 at Van Andel Arena to their feet.
1:27 later, Brett Connolly scores on a breakaway to even the game for the Crunch, quieting the sellout Griffins crowd.
Later, a big save by the pad of Mrazek, followed up by a rush the other way for the Griffins and Jan Mursak cleaning up a Jeff Hoggan rebound edging the Griffins out ahead 2-1.
Crunch then had to kill :59 of five on three. Grand Rapids got close, but failed to score.
A big scrum with 4.9 seconds left put the Crunch on the power play heading into the second period. The referees reviewed the play just to confirm that the puck did not cross the line and it did not.
Grand Rapids comes out in the second period and easily kills the carryover Crunch power play not allowing Syracuse a quality chance.
Teams trade power plays in the first half of the period but neither are able to capitalize.
Hoggan was sprung on a breakaway. The puck hops his stick and he does not get an opportunity. Crunch goaltender Cedrick Desjardins comes out and plays it and in the chaos rookie blueliner Andrej Sustr takes a cross checking penalty but Syracsue dodges this bullet and kill it.
Onjrek Palat brings the Crunch even on a laser shot which eluded Mrazek. His first goal of the series. Mrazek’s body language after the goal clearly showed he wanted that one back.
Soon, Gustav Nyquist feeds Andersson off the wall, he finds himself alone with Desjardins, tries a few moves but the Crunch netminder goes into the splits and makes the save.
Then, Richard Panik scores on a redirect from a Mark Barberio slap pass from the point to push the Crunch out 3-2.
Nyquist would then appear to Panik and is given a game misconduct on a spearing major. Griffins would need to kill a 5:00 major which carried over into the third period.
But, Andrej Sustr takes a tripping penalty which put the teams at 4×4 at 2:13 of the third. Nothing doing for either team. The penalties would expire and Tomas Jurco, serving the 5:00 for the Nyquist spear, would get in behind the Griffins defense and nearly score but Desjardins made the save.
Crunch would fall back and go full defense from here on out.
But Grand Rapids continued to knock on the door.
Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan had an opportunity to tie the game but the puck dribbled off of his stick otherwise he would have had a wide open net.
Griffins would be awarded a late power play, League MVP Tyler Johnson had a shorthanded try but was stopped. Mrazek another save on a Crunch rush. Syracuse had the better chances shorthanded on the Grand Rapids power play.
With 17.4 left, the Griffins looked to score with Mrazek pulled, but there was inconclusive evidence that the puck crossed the line in the pile of bodies in Desjardins’ crease.
Three stars were 3) Jan Mursak (goal, even) 2) Ondrej Palat (goal, +1) and 1) Richard Panik (game winning goal, assist, +1)