SYRACUSE, N.Y. (theahl.com) — Syracuse entered the Calder Cup Finals with the sterling record, the championship experience and the home-ice advantage.
But Grand Rapids will pack two wins on the bus and head back to West Michigan with a chance to wrap up its first title next week.
Francis Pare‘s power-play goal late in the second period snapped a 4-4 tie and the Griffins survived a see-saw battle for a 6-4 victory over the Crunch on Sunday evening to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Calder Cup Finals.
The Griffins head home for the next three games of the series, needing two more wins to secure the AHL championship. Game 3 is Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.
Grand Rapids led 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 before Syracuse tied it late in the second period, but Pare’s goal 26 seconds after the Crunch equalizer kept the momentum going in the Griffins’ favor.
For the second straight night, Grand Rapids jumped in front early. Tomas Tatar scored his 12th goal of the postseason, tied for the AHL lead, at 4:29 of the first period to stake Grand Rapids to the 1-0 lead. Defenseman Brennan Evans carried the puck deep from the point and found Tatar, who was stationed in front of the net.
The Griffins made it 2-0 at 11:31 as Triston Grant pounced on the rebound of a Landon Ferraro shot for his first goal of the 2013 playoffs and his second in 55 career AHL postseason matches.
Syracuse got on the board with 5:57 left in the opening period as Andrej Sustr fired a long shot through traffic that beat Petr Mrazek. For Sustr, it was his first playoff goal.
Ferraro gave Grand Rapids a 3-1 lead at 6:23 of the second period, following up a Jeff Hoggan chance and burying the puck past Cedrick Desjardins.
Held without a shot for the first half of the second period, the Crunch got an opportunity on the power play and quickly converted at 10:06 when Richard Panik gathered the rebound of a Tyler Johnson shot at the top of the crease, kicked the puck to his stick and slipped it behind Mrazek to pull to within 3-2.
The Griffins got that one right back, though, as Tomas Jurco scored on a power play at 12:09, taking a feed from behind the net and roofing it under the crossbar before Desjardins could react.
The Crunch answered again at 16:12 as Brett Connolly found a loose rebound of a Tyler Johnson shot and made it 4-3 Griffins with Syracuse’s second power-play goal of the night.
J.T. Brown was credited with the game-tying goal at 18:23 of the second period on a shot from the right wing that beat Mrazek to the far side and went through the mesh. Play continued for nearly 40 seconds until the next whistle, at which time the play was reviewed and the goal confirmed.
But Tyler Johnson took a delay-of-game penalty and Grand Rapids went right back on top on Pare’s power-play goal at 18:49, sending the Griffins to the locker room for the second intermission with a 5-4 lead.
Grand Rapids survived a four-minute Syracuse power play in the early stages of the third period, and grabbed their fourth two-goal lead of the night with 5:04 left in regulation as Jan Mursak scored on a breakaway to make it 6-4.
Despite a 13-4 edge in shots during the third period, the Crunch could get no closer on the scoreboard and dropped their second straight game for the first time this postseason.
Mrazek (13-7) stopped all 13 shots he faced in the third period and finished with 30 saves for the win. Desjardins (11-3) allowed six goals on 29 shots.
Grand Rapids was 2-for-5 on the power play; Syracuse was 2-for-8.
2013 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
E3-Syracuse Crunch vs. W3-Grand Rapids Griffins
Game 1 – Sat., June 8 – Grand Rapids 3, SYRACUSE 1
Game 2 – Sun., June 9 – Grand Rapids 6, SYRACUSE 4
Game 3 – Wed., June 12 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 4 – Fri., June 14 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., June 15 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 6 – Tue., June 18 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 7 – Thu., June 20 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern