Griffins alive and well after Game 5 romp

Tyler Bertuzzi had a hat trick, Andreas Athanasiou tallied a goal and two assists and Jared Coreau made 35 saves in his first start of the postseason, adding up to a 6-1 Grand Rapids win in Game 5 of the Central Division Finals on Saturday night.

Despite back-to-back losses, Lake Erie still leads the best-of-seven series, three games to two, with Game 6 on tap for Monday in Grand Rapids.

The Monsters scored the only goal of the first period before the Griffins scored three times in the second and three times more in the third. Grand Rapids has outscored Lake Erie 10-1 over the teams’ last 81 minutes of play.

Kerby Rychel scored his first goal of the playoffs with 3:18 remaining in the opening period to give Lake Erie a 1-0 lead, crashing the net and getting a piece of Zach Werenski’s shot to beat Coreau.

But Grand Rapids struck early in the second period to tie the game at 1-1, as Jeff Hoggan kept the puck in at the Lake Erie blue line and found Andy Miele, who raced down the right wing and tucked a shot under the crossbar over the glove hand of Joonas Korpisalo at 1:56.

The Griffins took the lead for good at 5:03 during four-on-four play. Athanasiou stripped a Monsters player of the puck along the goal line and sent a shot on net that Korpisalo stopped, but Bertuzzi buried the rebound for his fifth goal of the playoffs.

Athanasiou’s speed made it 3-1 in favor of the Griffins with 3:08 to go in the second period as he picked up the puck at his own blue line, accelerated past two Monsters through the neutral zone and beat Korpisalo on the breakaway, his second goal of the postseason.

Athanasiou raced in on another partial breakaway with 12:05 left in the third period and hit the side of the net, but the rebound came out to Bertuzzi who popped it over a prone Korpisalo for his second goal of the night and sixth of the postseason.

Nathan Paetsch fired home a power-play goal with 6:35 remaining to make it 5-1, the defenseman’s first goal in his last 69 Calder Cup Playoff games; his last postseason goal was with Rochester on Apr. 25, 2004.

Bertuzzi completed the hat trick with 3:20 to play, his league-leading seventh goal of the playoffs and his 14th goal in 22 postseason games over the last two springs.

Coreau (2-0, 0.70, .981) picked up the win in his first start after stopping all 16 shots he faced in relief in Game 4. Tom McCollum had started the Griffins’ previous 22 playoff games going back to last year.

Korpisalo (6-2) allowed five goals on 30 shots for the Monsters. Anton Forsberg stopped five of six shots in relief, his first appearance of the playoffs.

Of the 130 teams in Calder Cup history to trail a best-of-seven series 3-0, the Griffins are just the 18th to force a Game 6.

Central Division Finals – Series “K” (best-of-7) 
C2-Lake Erie Monsters vs. C4-Grand Rapids Griffins 

Game 1 – Thu., May 5 – LAKE ERIE 3, Grand Rapids 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Sat., May 7 – LAKE ERIE 4, Grand Rapids 3
Game 3 – Sun., May 8 – Lake Erie 2, GRAND RAPIDS 1
Game 4 – Tue., May 10 – GRAND RAPIDS 5, Lake Erie 4
Game 5 – Sat., May 14 – Grand Rapids 6, LAKE ERIE 1
Game 6 – Mon., May 16 – Lake Erie at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., May 18 – Grand Rapids vs. Lake Erie, 7:30 (at Columbus)
   *if necessary… All times Eastern