Wolves push Griffins to the brink

Kari Lehtonen made 29 saves and Steve Maltais recorded four points as Chicago pushed Grand Rapids to the brink of elimination with a 4-1 win in Game 3 of their West Division semifinal on Wednesday night.

The Wolves lead the series, three games to none, and go for the sweep of their arch-rivals in Game 4 on Friday.

Jeff Nelson scored midway through the first period to give the Griffins an early lead, but Maltais went on to pick up two goals and two assists after being held off the scoresheet in the first two games of the series.

Maltais now has 71 career Calder Cup Playoff points, tied for 13th all-time.

Lehtonen has stopped 87 of 91 shots in the series, and Chicago has won 10 of its 11 games, dating back to the end of the regular season.

Stanislav Chistov scored his second goal of the game on a power play 8:32 into overtime to give Cincinnati a stunning 5-4 win over Milwaukee in Game 1 of their West Division semifinal. Game 2 is set for Friday.

The Mighty Ducks were given the man advantage in OT after Admirals goaltender Wade Flaherty was whistled for delay of game.

Cincinnati, which swept Houston in the qualifying series, took a two-goal lead into the third period, but Milwaukee rallied to take a 4-3 lead before Pierre Parenteau re-tied the score with 1:11 remaining in regulation.

Tony Martensson recorded two assists, and is now tied for the AHL’s playoff scoring lead with eight points in three games.

Milwaukee finished first overall in the AHL with 102 points in the regular season. Cincinnati finished 24th overall with 72 points.

Jozef Balej scored on a power play 5:07 into the game and Jason LaBarbera made it stand up with 25 saves as Hartford posted a 1-0 win over Portland, squaring their Atlantic Division semifinal series at one game apiece.

The win was the Wolf Pack’s first in their last seven playoff games, and was the Pirates’ first loss in regulation in their last 13 outings overall.

Rastislav Stana made 33 stops in the loss. Game 3 is Friday in Portland.

Antero Niittymaki made 30 saves and recorded an assist as Philadelphia took a 2-1 decision from Norfolk in the opener of their East Division semifinal at the Wachovia Center.

Ian MacNeil and rookie Stefan Ruzicka scored for the Phantoms, who were in action for the first time since a season-ending win in Hershey on Apr. 11. MacNeil’s goal at 19:01 of the first period was the first allowed by the Admirals’ Michael Leighton in nearly seven full periods of playoff action.

Shawn Thornton spoiled Niittymaki’s shutout bid with 3:12 left in regulation.

Game 2 is Friday night in Philadelphia.

Syracuse ended a nine-game road losing streak against Rochester with a 3-2 win in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in the North Division semifinals.

Brad Moran scored twice and Aaron Johnson recorded two assists for the Crunch, who had been outscored 28-6 in six previous visits to western New York this season.

Karl Goehring got his first start and made 32 saves to earn the win.