ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - The Grand Rapids Griffins are back atop the Western Conference thanks to a gritty come-from-behind win Saturday night.
The Griffins scored five unanswered goals to defeat the Abbotsford Heat 5-2 in American Hockey League action.
With his club down 2-0 after 20 minutes of action, head coach Jeff Blashill made a goaltending change that seemed to spark his club. Tom McCollum allowed two goals on 10 shots, but Petr Mrazek came in and stopped all 13 shots he faced.
"It wasn't Tommy's fault for the goals, but it was one of those things where you want to change it up to change the momentum," said Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan. "Petr came in and did well. It was huge for us."
David McIntyre gave the Griffins the lead for the first time in the game at 8:39 of the third when he redirected Nick Jensen's point shot from the side of the net.
"The play was started by Jordan Tootoo, getting the puck into the zone," said McIntyre. "It was a great pass from Nick Jensen. It was right on the tape, it was real easy for me."
Andrj Nestrasil, Teemu Pulkkinen, Hoggan and Tootoo also scored for Grand Rapids (35-17-5), which has won five consecutive games and moved past Texas - who's game Saturday was suspended - for first in the Western Conference.
"We've been up and down since the All-Star break," said Hoggan. "We were flat in the first but stuck with it. It was a big win for us (because) that's a good team over there."
Max Reinhart had two first-period goals for Abbotsford (33-18-6), which is winless in four games.
Joey MacDonald made 37 saves in the loss.
"They do a great job in the offensive zone of forechecking, and in the neutral zone - they're sound system-wise," said Heat captain Dean Arsene. "We just had too many turnovers, and a skilled team like that in transition, they just ate us up."
Reinhart got the Heat on the board early, deflecting Arsene's point shot past McCollum at the 1:23 mark.
The North Vancouver, B.C., native scored his second of the night with just 12 seconds to go in the first period when he finished off a give-and-go with Corey Locke, beating McCollum short side, top corner.
That's when Grand Rapids changed goaltenders.
"I would have probably done the same," said Abbotsford head coach Troy Ward of his counterpart's decision. "He needed a change, a spark. We got to McCollum. We (previously) beat him (in Grand Rapids), so (Blashill) probably felt it was time for that change. They did a good job of keeping the game 2-0. We had a couple of looks to go up 3-0 but we didn't make those things happen, even when Mrazek was in net."
Nestrasil got Grand Rapids on the board at 13:20 of the second period. After a pair of Abbotsford players failed to clear the puck it bounced right to the Czech Republic native, who quickly beat MacDonald glove side for his seventh of the season.
The Griffins tied the game at 4:34 of the third period. From behind the net, Hoggan quickly stuffed the puck between the post and MacDonald's skate. It was just the second goal the captain scored since Christmas.
"We racked up a lot of shots, we just kept getting pucks to the net," said Hoggan. "Joey Mac played the puck behind the net but I ended up having some space to walk out front."
McIntyre scored to put the visitors up four minutes later.
"It was a good pass from Jensen, backdoor," said Hoggan. "We were struggling to score goals, so it was nice to get five tonight."
Tootoo scored an insurance marker with 4:09 to go in the game, picking the corner with a wrist shot from the face-off dot.
"Obviously (Tootoo) is a grizzled veteran," said McIntyre. "He's played a lot of big games so he knows what it takes to win. That was a great shot."
Pulkkinen added an empty netter with less than two minutes to play, giving him five goals in three games.