GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Penalty killing has plagued the Grand Rapids Griffins all season, especially against their first-round playoff opponent.
The Griffins allowed back-to-back power plays goals in the second period and it led to a 5-2 loss Wednesday night against the Chicago Wolves in Game 4 of the Central Division semifinals at Van Andel Arena.
A decisive Game 5 will be played Sunday at 4 p.m. in Chicago. You can listen to it on ESPN 96.1 FM or watch online at AHLTV.
“Everybody talks about special teams winning games in the playoffs and tonight we lost the special teams battle,” Griffins defenseman Joe Hicketts said. “It’s been a trend of ours over the course of the year. When our penalty kill is on, we’re going to have success, but as soon as we give one, we find a way to give up two and that’s what happened tonight.”
The Griffins were without a key cog on the penalty killing unit. Dominic Turgeon was suspended two games by the AHL for a boarding incident in Game 3 Tuesday night. Forward Givani Smith was suspended as well for one game after an illegal check.
After a scoreless first period, the Griffins grabbed an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Derek Husak.
The Wolves countered two minutes later with a power play goal, then added another power play goal shortly after to put Grand Rapids in a 2-1 hole.
“Taking penalties didn’t help,” Griffins head coach Ben Simon said. “They have a good power play and we knew that going into the series. They have some good firepower even with the guys they are missing.”
Chicago added to their in the opening minute of the third period, but the Griffins answered with a goal from Turner Elson and the deficit was trimmed to 3-2.
Grand Rapids was unable to deliver the game-tying goal and surrendered a pair of empty net goals in the final two minutes.
“For us, the disappointing thing was that we were right there,” Simon said. “After the first period it was a tie game and after the second we were down one. It just wasn’t there tonight for us.”
Grand Rapids will try to regroup and win in Chicago for the second time in this series. They won 5-1 in Game 1.
“We’ll have a couple days of rest and we know we can win there,” Grand Rapids’ Colin Campbell said. “I think we’re a confident group and we can definitely win one hockey game.”
Griffins goalie Harri Sateri stopped 29 of 32 shots.