TORONTO 5, GRAND RAPIDS 1
Losers of four straight games entering the night, Toronto halted that skid and stabilized its playoff hopes in the North Division with a convincing 5-1 road win over Grand Rapids on Wednesday in front of 8,905 fans at Van Andel Arena.
The Marlies (35-28-1-9, 80 points), who had tumbled to fifth in the division during their slide, pulled back into a tie with the Griffins for third place. Only the top three teams in the North are guaranteed entry to the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Toronto forward Ryan Hamilton set the tone when he scored just 45 seconds after the opening face-off, and Aaron Voros kept the momentum going when he beat Griffins goaltender Jordan Pearce on a penalty shot attempt at 8:50.
Hamilton scored again before the period was out, and the Marlies were well on their way to their first victory since taking a 6-5 decision at Rochester on Mar. 11.
After Derek Meech put Grand Rapids on the board in the second frame, Marlies rookie Tyler Brenner celebrated his professional debut by nabbing a pair of third-period goals to put the game away. Fabian Brunnstrom assisted on both markers, while Joe Colborne and Simon Gysbers also earned helpers.
The Griffins, who finished 3-2-0-0 on a five-game homestand, will now embark on a five-game which has them playing twice at Texas, twice in Abbotsford, and once in Milwaukee. Overall, Grand Rapids plays seven of its final eight contests away from Van Andel Arena.
CONNECTICUT 3, SPRINGFIELD 2
Connecticut scored twice in the third period to complete its rally from a 3-0 deficit and edged visiting Springfield by a 3-2 count on Wednesday at the XL Center.
The Whale are now 4-0-0-0 in their last four games, 9-2-0-0 in their last 11, and 15-6-0-1 since the AHL All-Star break. Connecticut moved four points up on idle Worcester for the Atlantic Division’s third and final guaranteed playoff spot.
Springfield, which came in as losers of 10 straight contests, grabbed a 2-0 advantage by the game’s midpoint on goals by Wade MacLeod – who scored in his professional debut – and defenseman Cody Goloubef.
But Derek Couture began the Whale’s rally less than three minutes after Goloubef’s second-period tally, and Dale Weise tied it up on the power play just 54 seconds into the third frame. That set the stage for John Mitchell to nab the game-winner at 11:17, his second game-winner since joining the Whale following the NHL’s trade deadline.
Whale goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris stopped 25 of 27 shots in net and improved to 10-3-1 in 16 appearances with Connecticut this season.
BINGHAMTON 6, SYRACUSE 3
A four-goal second period propelled Binghamton to another high-octane home-ice win over Syracuse this season, this one by a 6-3 final on Wednesday at the Broome County Arena.
The Senators finished the home portion of their season series with Syracuse at a perfect 4-0-0-0 and outscored the Crunch by a 24-7 in those four games, never scoring fewer than five goals in any of them.
Kaspars Daugavins (2-1-3), Ryan Potulny (1-2-3), and defenseman Andre Benoit (1-2-3) led the way with three points apiece for the B-Sens, while Jim O’Brien (1-1-2) and captain Ryan Keller also found the back of the net.
The Senators (35-27-3-4, 81 points) extended their winning streak to three games and moved three points up on idle Worcester for the Eastern Conference’s crossover playoff berth. Binghamton also sits five points back of Norfolk and Charlotte, who are tied for third place in the East Division race.
WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 2, ALBANY 1 (SO)
Rookie Keven Veilleux and former AHL rookie of the year Brett Sterling netted shootout goals as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton eked out a 2-1 win over visiting Albany on Wednesday at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Penguins goaltender Brad Thiessen earned his league-leading 32nd victory of the season (32-7-1) after making 22 saves through the first 65 minutes and turning aside four of five attempts by Albany in the shootout.
Wilkes-Barre captain Ryan Craig began the night’s scoring with a power play goal at 13:37 of the opening period, but the Devils’ Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond pulled his club even midway through the second frame.
The Penguins improved to 14-0-0-0 all-time against the Devils franchise, including an 8-0-0-0 finish to the 2010-11 season series. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has now won five straight overall, and the Pens’ 51 victories (51-18-0-1) matches a franchise record attained in both 2005-06 and 2006-07.
Albany continues a five-game road swing on Friday night at Syracuse.
NORFOLK 2, ADIRONDACK 1
Norfolk scored twice in just over two minutes early in the second period and held on from there to collect a 2-1 win over visiting Adirondack at the Scope on Wednesday.
The Admirals, who have now earned a point in six straight games (5-0-0-1) and 12 of their last 14 outings (9-2-0-3), pulled back into a tie with Charlotte for third place in the East Division and still hold three games in hand on the Checkers.
Additionally, Norfolk (36-19-8-6, 86 points) is now just five points shy of second-place Hershey and also holds three games in hand on the Bears.
Defenseman Mathieu Roy (2:29) and forward Mike Angelidis (4:38) buried second-period goals for the Admirals, with Roy scoring unassisted and Angelidis connecting shorthanded off a feed by James Wright.
Luke Pither brought the Phantoms within 2-1 with a power play strike late in the second, but Adirondack could not pull solve goaltender Dustin Tokarski again and has now dropped back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since Jan. 14-15.
Tokarski (20-15-4) finished with 32 saves on the night and extended his personal winning streak to four games.
ROCKFORD 5, SAN ANTONIO 1
Rookie defenseman Ryan Stanton, who entered the night with one goal in 62 games this year, tripled his season total with a pair of goals to lead Rockford to a 5-1 win over visiting San Antonio on Wednesday at the MetroCentre.
The five-goal outburst marked Rockford’s greatest offensive output since a 6-5 overtime loss at Texas on Feb. 11, and the club’s largest winning output since beating Grand Rapids by a 6-0 final on Jan. 8.
Stanton, a 21-year-old who registered 10 goals in his last season of juniors at Moose Jaw (WHL) in 2009-10, scored his only previous goal this year exactly one month earlier, on Feb. 23 in a 5-4 loss at Chicago.
IceHogs goaltender Hannu Toivonen (15-15-4) earned the victory between the pipes with 39 saves on 40 shots.
Matt Watkins tallied the lone goal for the Rampage (37-28-3-2, 79 points), who wasted a chance to climb from seventh place to fifth in the West Division race. San Antonio has managed just five goals during its current four-game winless skid (0-3-0-1).