The American Hockey League Western Conference finals is now a best-of-three showdown that will determine which team plays Syracuse for the Calder Cup trophy.
Grand Rapids built a three-goal lead midway through the second period, and goaltender Petr Mrazek recorded 40 saves to lead the Griffins to a 4-0 win over the Oklahoma City Barons Saturday night in front of 3,027 fans at the Cox Convention Center.
The best-of-7 seven series is tied 2-2.
Rescheduled Game 5 is Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Cox Convention Center. Game 6 will be Tuesday night in Grand Rapids. If necessary, Game 7 would be played Wednesday night in Grand Rapids.
“They played with some desperation,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “They're a good hockey team ... Grand Rapids got the jump early and their goaltender played unbelievable.”
The Griffins got a boost from two players Detroit assigned to the team Thursday after the Red Wings were eliminated in the NHL Playoffs.
Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist helped the Griffins go 2-for-2 on the power play after they were 0-of-9 in the first three games with the man advantage.
“They're definitely different with those two guys,” Nelson said. “They're more dynamic with those two guys. But it's not like that line killed us. Their scoring was spread out. It came down to it was a total team effort on their part and a total team loss on our part.”
The Griffins made it 2-0 in the opening two minutes of the second period when Riley Sheahan took advantage of an OKC turnover.
Grand Rapids went up 3-0 midway through the second period on a give-and-go goal by Landon Ferraro and Chad Billins. The Griffins added an empty-net, power-play goal from Jan Mursak with 1:49 remaining.
One goal proved to be enough for Mrazek, a 21-year-old Czech rookie who could be the Red Wings' backup goaltender at some point next season. Mrazek recorded his third shutout of the playoffs.
“We had a lot of quantity but I didn't think we had a lot of quality shots,” said Barons team captain Josh Green. “I felt it was an easy night for him. We fired a lot of shots from the outside. He played really well but he saw pretty much everything. We didn't have a lot of traffic in front of him.”
The Barons outshot the Griffins 40-32, the third consecutive game they've outshot Grand Rapids.
OKC owns a 138-103 overall edge in shots on goal, but the series is tied 2-2 heading into pivotal Game 5.
“We didn't have a lot of second-chance opportunities,” Green said. “If we're going to move on and win this series we've got to do a better job of battling for position in front, get some rebounds and do a better job of finishing as well.”
Nelson pointed out the Barons have either been tied or trailed 1-0 after one period in three of the four games other than an early 3-0 lead in Game 3. Nelson said it's critical to get off to a strong start on Sunday.
“As this game went on we got stronger,” Nelson said. “We need to carry that momentum over ... I have a feeling this series may go the distance. These are two strong teams that are very similar. It's going to be a battle.”
The Barons are 5-2 at home in the playoffs. They lost their playoff opener in the first-round series to Charlotte but had won five consecutive games at the Cox Center before losing Saturday night.
“It's still a decent position for us,” Green said. “If we win this home game (Sunday) then we just have to win one of two games on the road. We've been a pretty good road team all year so I would like our chances. But it's start with the game on Sunday.”