In a game defined by special teams goals, the Grand Rapids Griffins allowed a pair of shorthanded tallies but scored twice on the power play to earn their fourth straight victory, 6-3 over the Texas Stars at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday.
Matt Lorito notched three points to lead the Griffins (9-4-0-0) to their 10th consecutive regular season win against the Stars (7-6-1-0), a streak that dates to the 2013-14 season and includes five victories on home ice. The visitors will attempt to snap both Texas-sized skids on Friday in a 7 p.m. rematch at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins’ power play capitalized for the fourth straight game just 3:58 into the opening period, as Martin Frk beat Philippe Desrosiers from the top of the left circle off Lorito’s deft cross-ice feed through traffic.
Lorito then added to the home team’s advantage at the 8:42 mark, setting up in the slot to redirect Robbie Russo’s slap pass from the right side behind Desrosiers. A second-year pro who paced Albany is scoring last season, Lorito secured his fourth multi-point game of the campaign to push his team-leading point total to 13 (5-8—13).
A misplay by Jared Coreau enabled the Stars to momentarily cut their deficit in half on a shorthanded goal by Ethan Werek, who beat the Griffins netminder in a race to a cleared puck before whipping it past a diving Joe Hicketts and into the vacated cage at 17:15.
Grand Rapids needed only 24 seconds to get the goal back, moments after its third power play of the frame expired. Veteran forward Matthew Ford, making his Griffins debut after missing the season’s first 12 games due to injury, blasted a slap shot home from above the left circle to give Grand Rapids a 3-1 lead heading into period two.
Maxime Lagace replaced Desrosiers in the Texas net to start the middle period, and the Stars responded by tallying another undermanned goal off a miscue at 8:44, marking just the sixth time in franchise history that the Griffins allowed two shorthanded goals in one game. Travis Morin intercepted a clearing attempt by Ben Street in the Grand Rapids zone, darted to the slot and scored on a shot that trickled through Coreau’s pads.
The Griffins once again had a quick answer, though, as Tyler Bertuzzi banked a shot off the skate of Texas winger Remi Elie from below the goal line with 7:07 remaining to make it a 4-2 contest.
Colin Campbell scored at 15:12 of the third period by cleaning up a rebound on the doorstep, with Bertuzzi earning the second assist to give him two points in his first game since returning from his NHL debut with the Detroit Red Wings. The Stars’ Bryce Van Brabant answered 2:03 later by slipping a sharp-angle shot between Coreau and the left post, before Campbell shot the puck 160 feet into an empty net with 2:10 left for the final margin.
Coreau recorded his league-leading eighth win on the strength of 26 saves, benefitting from his team’s 41-29 edge in shots and 7-1 advantage in power play chances. Lagace took the loss in relief despite stopping 21 of 23, while Desrosiers denied 14 of 17 in the no-decision.