BRITISH COLUMBIA

Gleason Fournier scores SO winner as Grand Rapids defeat Abbotsford 4-3

03/01/2014 12:51 EST | Updated 04/30/2014 05:59 EDT
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Grand Rapids Griffins' defenceman Gleason Fournier was surprised to get tapped late in Friday's shootout, but his coach and teammates are glad he did.

Fournier scored the shootout winner as the Griffins defeated the Abbotsford Heat 4-3 Friday in American Hockey League action.

"I was a little bit surprised but it feels good to contribute to the two points," said Fournier. "(Head coach Jeff) Blashill made the call, with his instinct I guess."

Fournier, who has no points this year and just two career AHL goals, beat Olivier Roy stick side to clinch the win for the visitors.

"That was nice from our defencemen," said Grand Rapids' Teemu Pulkkinen. "(Brennan Evans) had a nice move five-hole and then Fournier made a huge shot. That's huge for us that we have D that can score in a shootout. And (Petr) Mrazek made a really good play against (Chad) Billins. It was perfect."

The Rimouski, Que., native had a chance to win the game in the eighth round after Mrazek made an aggressive save on Abbotsford's Billins, skating out to the hash marks to stymie the skilled Heat defenceman.

"It's the element of surprise from any goalie at any time," said Heat head coach Troy Ward. "That was a real good read. It was an old teammate of his and it takes guts. I give the kid credit, he won that one."

Pulkkinen scored twice, giving him a team-leading 23 goals and four in two games. Calle Jarnkrok had a goal and two assists. Andrej Nestrasil had two assists.

"Pulkkinen was big with two goals, again, like in Milwaukee," said Fournier. "Those guys, when they take charge, you can really see it."

Mrazek stopped 31 shots in the win, the team's fourth-straight, and puts Grand Rapids (34-17-5) just one point back of Texas for the Western Conference lead.

"We were in first place all season, so we're obviously a really good club," said Fournier, Detroit's '09 third-round choice. "Lately it was a bit hard, but we've got that winning streak rolling again. It's nice to win against a team like Abbotsford. Heading into the game we had 71 points each so we're back in the lead."

Max Reinhart had two goals for Abbotsford (33-17-6), who has now lost three straight.

Sven Baertschi had a goal and an assist, while Roy made 34 saves in the losing effort.

"There were different times in my four years here that we wouldn't have maybe got a point out of this," said Ward. "It's a credit to our guys' (character)."

Baertschi opened the scoring on the power play when Ben Street's wrist shot from the point was redirected between Mrazek's legs at 6:11.

Pulkkinen tied the game at 16:44. After taking a pass at the blue-line, he stepped into a slap shot from the top of the face-off circle to beat Roy far side.

"We just try to play hard, go to the net and shoot the puck," said Pulkkinen of his line. "We know that the goalies make mistakes too so that's our goal."

The 22-year-old Finn gave the Griffins the lead at 3:49. Nick Jensen's shot from the top of the circle was deflected by Pulkkinen, cruising through the slot. That was Jensen's first professional point.

Reinhart tied the game at 16:09, taking a pass from Brett Olson and wiring a wrist shot far side on Mrazek.

Jarnkrok's power-play goal gave the Griffins the lead heading into the second intermission. Nestrasil found Jarnkrok in the low slot and he beat Roy bar down with just 20 seconds to play.

Grand Rapids thought they had doubled the lead eight minutes into the third, but the deflection in front was a high stick and was immediately waved off by referee Trevor Hanson.

Reinhart tied the game with just under four minutes to go, redirecting a pass from Baertschi around Mrazek's left pad.

"We played really good tonight for the first forty minutes, but the next 20 wasn't," said Pulkkinen. "It was good that we found a way to win."

Grand Rapids had the best scoring chance in overtime, but Ryan Sproul fired it off the crossbar midway through the extra frame and with 35 seconds to go, Cory Emmerton shot a one-timer from the slot right into Roy's crest.