The Calder Cup Finals are in full swing as the Syracuse Crunch hosted the Grand Rapids Griffins for games 1 and 2 of the series. The Crunch lost only their second of this postseason as the Griffins took game 1 by a score of 3-1. It was not a typical game for Syracuse and it was clear that they would come out with more fight the next game.
Tensions were immediately obvious in game 2 with pushing and shoving coming after the first whistle of the game. As was the case with the first game, the Griffins kicked off the scoring. At 4:29 in the 1st period, Tomas Tatar beat Cedrick Desjardins. Veteran Brennan Evans was behind the net on a delayed penalty call and fed the puck to Tatar for the goal. Later, after the halfway mark in the 1st, the Griffins took a 2-0 lead. Desjardins came up with the initial save on Landon Ferraro but the rebound landed right on the stick of Triston Grant for the goal.
The Crunch were determined not to go into the first intermission down 2-0 and one of their defenseman came up big. Andrej Sustr took a slapshot from the blue line that beat Petr Mrazek low on the blocker side. It was the first postseason point for Sustr. After that first goal, Mrazek seemed to shut it down, coming up with a number of big saves. When the buzzer sounded indicating the end of the first frame, the Crunch found themselves leading 13-10 in shots but behind 2-1 where it counts.
The teams skated out for the second period that would end up being one of the crazier periods of a Calder Cup Finals game. The rough play continues in the second period after a save by Mrazek. After the officials manage to break it up, each side sees a player head to the box for roughing and play continues. The Griffins regain their two-goal lead at 6:23 when Ferraro gets his second point of the game, this time a goal. He happened to be at the right place, at the right time to send a rebound past Desjardins.
At the 9:40 mark, the Crunch found themselves on the power play with the hopes they could turn their struggles around. Over the past 19 power play attempts, they had found the back of the net just once. But their luck would turn around when, after just 26 seconds, Richard Panik scored his 5th of the playoffs. He quickly switched from his forehand to backhand as he put the puck into the net.
Not to be outdone, the Griffins added a power play goal of their own at 12:09. Tomas Jurco was credited for the goal that went off the crossbar before bouncing out. The play fell dead as the officials went to review it. It seemed like it could have gone either way, but it went in the Griffins favor to give them the 4-2 lead. Just about four minutes later, the Crunch closed the gap to 4-3 on another power play. Brett Connolly was open at the side of the net for the rebound goal as Tyler Johnson distracted Mrazek and the Griffins defenders in front.
Immediately following the goal to bring the Crunch within one, Desjardins came up with a big save. Crunch forward JT Brown found himself with the puck alone in front of Mrazek but did not appear to have capitalized on the play. Play continued, but with less than a minute to go, the officials once again went to the review. It was not immediately clear what they were looking at until they ruled a goal for Syracuse. After further review, not only did Brown not miss the net, he had shot the puck so hard it had gone straight through. It was something you certainly do not see often in a hockey game, but the Crunch bench erupted as they realized it meant the game was tied at 4.
Despite the Crunch being awarded a crazy goal after the fact, Grand Rapids would send it to the second intermission with a score of 5-4. It was just 26 seconds after play resumed and 5 seconds into a Griffins power play when Francis Pare regained the lead for Grand Rapids. Desjardins had trouble seeing with all of the bodies in front of him and was not able to stop Pare.
After the wild second period that featured a combined 6 goals between the two teams and a puck going straight through the net, nobody was sure what to expect for the third frame. But the final period would prove to be a show of goaltending not of scoring. The only goal of the period came from Jan Mursak of the Griffins to increase their lead to 6-4.
Even though the two teams combined for 10 goals in the game, both goaltenders came up with some amazing saves. That just goes to show how offensively talented both teams are. With the win, Grand Rapids takes a 2-0 series lead back home where they will play at least a game 3 and 4. If game 5 is necessary, it will also be played in Grand Rapids. During the entire 2012-2013 regular season, the Crunch did not post back to back regulation losses and this is only their third loss of the postseason. The two teams are back in action on Wednesday, June 12th.