The Grand Rapids Griffins scored three times over the final 9:56 of the third period to defeat the Toronto Marlies, 4-3, and clinch a berth in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2006.
Grand Rapids won the series, four games to two, and advances to meet the Oklahoma City Barons for the Western Conference championship in a series that will begin Friday night. (Full schedule)
Back on home ice and facing elimination for a second consecutive game, the Marlies started quickly as Carter Ashton streaked down the right-wing side and fired a wrist shot on net that trickled through Petr Mrazek (15 saves) and in at 4:15 of the opening period.
Mrazek got a big piece of Paul Ranger‘s shot with 2.4 seconds left in the first but that one found its way through and just barely over the goal line, giving the Marlies a 2-0 lead at the intermission.
Tomas Tatar got Grand Rapids on the board four minutes into the second period, rushing end-to-end, stepping around a Toronto defender and tucking the puck past Drew MacIntyre (27 saves) to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The equalizer came just 28 seconds later, as Francis Pare found a loose puck in front and sent a behind-the-back cross-crease pass to Tatar, whose second goal of the night made it 3-3 with 9:28 to play.
Luke Glendening, the native of East Grand Rapids, Mich., scored what would be the series-clinching goal with 4:03 to play. Adam Almquist snuck in from the point and sent a back-door pass from Mursak on net, and Glendening was there to bury the rebound to give Grand Rapids its first lead of the night.
The Griffins outshot the Marlies, 31-18, holding them to 20 shots or fewer for the third time in the last four games.
Western Conference Semifinal – Series “L” (best-of-7)
2-Toronto Marlies vs. 3-Grand Rapids Griffins
Game 1 – Fri., May 10 – Grand Rapids 7, TORONTO 0
Game 2 – Sat., May 11 – TORONTO 4, Grand Rapids 2
Game 3 – Wed., May 15 – GRAND RAPIDS 5, Toronto 4
Game 4 – Fri., May 17 – GRAND RAPIDS 4, Toronto 1
Game 5 – Sat., May 18 – Toronto 4, GRAND RAPIDS 1
Game 6 – Tue., May 21 – Grand Rapids 4, TORONTO 3