By Jason Iacona | PPPShow.net Corespondent | On Twitter: @nafsnep
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — No AHL game has been played past June 15 in the 75-plus year history of the league.
The Syracuse Crunch have changed that.
Backstopped by a sterling 40-save performance by Crunch goaltender Cedrick Desjardins, the Syracuse Crunch force this Calder Cup Finals back to Syracuse for a Game 6 Tuesday after winning 5-2 in Grand Rapids tonight.
No lineup changes from Game 4.
The teams trade power plays in the first five minutes but neither team takes advantage.
Ondrej Palat with a relentless backchecking of a Griffins defenseman leads to the Crunch’s first goal.
But the tone of the game would be set early, as the Griffins lead in shots by a count of 10-4 halfway through the first period.
At 16:09, Tyler Johnson from the left point finds Brett Connolly cutting to the net, and Connolly scores a nice shot to double the Crunch lead on the power play. It would be the first two goal lead of series for the Crunch.
Syracuse was buzzing, looking for the third goal.
But, Landon Ferraro leads a rush the other way, drives the net where Desjardins leaves a long rebound that Tristan Grant deposits into the net to cut the deficit in half.
It was Grand Rapids turn to turn the tide their way, and they did so big time in the second period.
The Crunch take a roughing penalty. On the kill, they have a mixup in the neutral zone. Tomas Tatar sets up a 3 on 1 rush up ice and finishes to tie the game at two.
Griffs go on power play again, spend whole time in their zone and nearly score again. The momentum was shifting Grand Rapids way, swarming Desjardins and the Crunch defense like sharks on chum.
But, the Crunch kill it and go on a power play of their own. Richard Panik sets up at the top of right circle, picks his spot and scores to put the Crunch back out ahead 3-2. His fourth game with a goal.
Grand Rapids picks up where it left off right before the penalty and continue the relentless pressure.
The Griffins finish the second period with 20 shots on Desjardins which was one shy of a franchise record and the most allowed by the Crunch in any point this season.
The third period setup as a pretty boring period.
Ondrej Palat drives the net just :36 into the third, goes one on three. Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek leaves a rebound and MVP Tyler Johnson taps in the rebound to make it a 4-2 Crunch lead.
Syracuse really gummed up the Griffins chances the rest of the period.
Griffins Head Coach Jeff Blashill pulls a Hail Mary and yanks Mrazek from his net with around three minutes left to play. Dan Sexton scores an empty net goal with 2:49 left in the third to seal it.
Three stars were: 3) Tomas Tatar (goal, -1) 2) Tyler Johnson (goal, assist, +2) and 1) Cedrick Desjardins (40 saves on 42 shots)