GRAND RAPIDS 4, HAMILTON 1
Grand Rapids grabbed the upper hand in its North Division semifinal by capturing the pivotal Game 5 over Hamilton by a 4-1 count on Friday at Van Andel Arena, becoming the first home team to win a game in the series.
Captain Darren Haydar tallied a pair of goals for the Griffins, who hold a 3-2 series lead as the teams return to Hamilton for Game 6 on Sunday.
Defensemen Tom Galvin and Jakub Kindl each tallied a goal and an assist in the first period for Griffins, who were coming off a Game 4 setback on Wednesday in which it coughed up a 3-0 lead and eventually suffered a 4-3 defeat in overtime.
Haydar responded with a man-advantage goal of his own 11:11 into the middle period and extended the lead to 4-1 at 7:17 of the third. He is now pacing all AHL playoff scorers with nine points (3-6-9) in five games thus far.
Ville Leino chipped in a pair of assists for the Griffins, who pelted Denis for 34 shots on goal to Hamilton’s 15 for the night. Grand Rapids held a 15-3 shots edge in the third period alone.
Griffins goaltender Jimmy Howard only had to make 14 saves to pick up the victory.
Grand Rapids will be going for its first playoff series win since 2006 when the teams suit up for Game 6 at Copps Coliseum on Sunday.