Monsters Prevail In Shootout

In their fourth home game in the past five days, the Lake Erie Monsters preserved after giving up four goals in the third period, eventually beating the Grand Rapids Griffins, 6-5, in a shootout Sunday afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena. The win was the first in the American Hockey League for goaltender Chris Whitley, who was playing in his first career AHL game. Offensively, the team was led by Darren Haydar, who put up his second consecutive four-point game (1G, 3A) in the win, and Brian Willsie, who netted the game-winning goal in the shootout.

Defenseman Tom Preissing opened the scoring for the Monsters, netting his sixth of the season four minutes into the game. With his back to the Grand Rapids cage, Preissing unleashed a slapshot while turning around that went off the post, past the glove of Griffins goalie Daniel Larsson and in. Haydar and Ryan Stoa picked up the assists.

Six minutes after Pressing gave the Monsters the lead, T.J. Hensick pushed Lake Erie up by two with his 17th of the season. Bringing the puck into the zone, Hensick let go of a wrist shot that found the back of the net through Larsson’s fivehole. The goal, assisted by Brian Fahey and Haydar, chased Larsson from his net just midway through the first period. Thomas McCollum would come in to replace Larsson.

If the plan was to use McCollum to slow down the Monsters offense, it didn’t work. Another six minutes after Hensick’s goal, Ray Macias put the Monsters up 3-0 with his fourth of the year. Driving the net, Macias picked up a rebound in front of McCollum and lifted the rubber disc past the glove side of the Griffins goalie. Brett Skinner and Stoa picked up helpers on the goal, which was the third and final tally scored in the first period. The game marked the second consecutive contest Macias has recorded a goal.

Not content with a three-goal cushion, Phil Dupuis put the Monsters up 4-0 with his 14th score of the season. With the puck behind the net, Hensick spotted Haydar in the slot to McCollum’s right. It seemed as if the puck was in the net before Haydar even took the pass, as the Monsters alternate captain one-timed a dart that hit Dupuis in front and went past McCollum’s short side at the 4:21 mark of the second. With a goal and an assist, Hensick recorded his 17th multi-point game of the season.

The Griffins would strike back, cutting the Monsters lead to three a minute-and-a-half later at the second period’s 5:48 mark. From the half wall, Patrick Rissmiller threw a shot toward the cage that found the net through a screen past the glove side of Whitley.

Before the second period would end, Haydar would make sure the Monsters regained their four-goal lead, netting his 21st of the year with 57 seconds left in the middle frame. At the side of the net, Haydar chipped the puck over a sprawled out McCollum and into the Griffins cage. Fahey and Kevin Montgomery assisted on the goal. Scoring the goal, Haydar has put up eight points (3G, 5A) in the past two games, both against his former team, the Griffins. The multi-point effort was Haydar’s 16th of the year.

Stoa and Fahey put up their seventh and second multi-point games, respectively, with a pair of helpers each on Sunday.

Down four with 20 minutes left in regulation, the Griffins wasted no time in their comeback attempt, as the team netted two goals in the third period’s first four minutes.

Lake Erie’s lead was reduced to three on Rissmiller’s second of the game just 35 seconds into the third. Standing to Whitley’s right, Jan Mursak redirected a pass that came from behind the net from Tomas Tatar. The puck, floating across Whitley’s body, was batted out of midair by Rissmiller into the net.

At the 4:35 mark of the third, Jamie Tardif’s 13th of the season put the Griffins within two of the Monsters. With the puck at the point, Tardif guided a wrist shot through traffic that found the back of the net past Whitley’s glove side. Mattis Ritola and Doug Janik assisted on the goal.

It would take more than nine minutes, but the Griffins would come within one of the Monsters at the 13:32 mark of regulation’s final 20 minutes when Kris Newbury netted his 11th of the season. Off to Whitley’s left, Newbury picked up a rebound in front of the net just outside Whitley’s crease and pushed it past the goalie’s glove. Logan Pyett and Williams picked up the helpers.

Then, with five minutes remaining in the third, Justin Abdelkader put in his fifth of the season to knot the game. Scored at the 14:50 mark, Abdelkader’s goal was assisted by Jakub Kindl and sent the game into overtime. In overtime, neither team would find the back of the net, and the game’s fate would be dictated by a shootout.

Shooting first, both Hensick and Rissmiller would be denied by the opposing goaltenders.

Coming in on McCollum, Stoa blew a wrist shot through the netminder’s legs to give the Monsters an early shootout lead. But Williams, the next shooter for Grand Rapids, would respond, wiring a wrist shot that squeezed in just under the crossbar.

The third Monsters shooter, Macias, would deke forehand and again put the Monsters up temporarily. Abdelkader followed up Macias with putting a wrist shot past the blocker of Whitley, knotting the shootout at two goals apiece.

Willsie, the captain, would score the exact same way in the shootout as Stoa, putting a wrist shot through the wickets of McCollum, to put the Monsters ahead.

After Willsie, Tatar and Cedric McNicoll would be stopped by Whitley and McCollum, respectively, and the shootout would come down to Newbury. Coming in on Whitley, Newbury released a wrist shot that went high and wide, giving the Monsters the two points and a shootout win.

“The way we played the third period was embarrassing, but the first two periods we played well,” said Willsie. “You get exposed when you cut corners, but luckily we got the second point.”

The Monsters return to action on Wednesday, when they travel to the Land of Lincoln to take on the Rockford IceHogs. Wednesday’s game marks the beginning of a seven-game, 11-day road trip. Lake Erie finally returns to The Q on Friday, March 19th, when they host the Hamilton Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (216) 420-0000, by visiting LakeErieMonsters.com or by visiting any Northern Ohio Discount Drug Mart.

Sights and Sounds
 
Head Coach David Quinn Interview
 
Brian Willsie Postgame Interview


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