Making his Griffins debut on a conditioning loan from the Detroit Red Wings, Jonas Gustavsson stopped 26 shots to backstop Grand Rapids to a 2-1 win over the Charlotte Checkers on Sunday in a battle of Western Conference powers at Van Andel Arena.
Gustavsson showed no signs of the groin injury that had sidelined him since Detroit’s season opener on Jan. 19, coming within 2:13 of a shutout and stifling a Checkers team that had won three straight and owned a five-point lead over Grand Rapids entering the day. He is expected to rejoin the Red Wings early this week.
The first-place Griffins (29-16-2-2), who tied a season high with their fourth straight home win, now possess a seven-point lead over Chicago in the Midwest Division race. on Friday night, they’ll to Rockford, the site of their infamous bench-clearing brawl with the IceHogs on Jan. 19.
Triston Grant’s fourth goal of the campaign put the Griffins ahead just 2:39 into the game. After tracking down a loose puck in the right corner, he turned and flung a sharp-angle shot on goal that deflected off a Checkers defender and past Justin Peters.
Luke Glendening was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down at the Charlotte blue line 7:51 into the second period, but his backhand attempt on Peters went wide left of the net. The Griffins would still take a 2-0 lead about six minutes later, though, when Andrej Nestrasil intercepted a pass at center ice, skated to the top of the left circle and fired a shot that was redirected past Peters’ glove at the 14-minute mark for his first of the season.
Charlotte (30-17-2-3) awoke from its slumber in the third to out-shoot Grand Rapids 11-6, but Gustavsson kept the door shut until a fluky goal at the 17:47 mark, when Jeremy Welsh’s try from the left corner immediately deflected off Gleason Fournier's stick and sailed over the 6-3 netminder.
Peters finished with 24 saves for Charlotte, which suffered only its seventh regulation defeat on the road this season (17-7-2-2).
Notes: Gustavsson’s victory made Red Wings goalies 4-0 all time when making their Griffins debuts during conditioning stints, as he joined Curtis Joseph (20 saves in a 4-1 win over Utah on Oct. 24, 2003), Chris Osgood (22 saves in a 6-3 win at San Antonio on Oct. 19, 2005) and Manny Legace (20 saves and an assist in a 7-2 win over Hamilton on Dec. 30, 2005) in the win column…In six career AHL games, Gustavsson owns a 4-1-1 record with a 1.11 goals against average and a 0.956 save percentage…With only three goals and four penalties,
the game finished in a crisp 2:07.
Three Stars: 1. GR Gustavsson (W, 26 saves); 2. GR Grant (goal); 3. GR Nestrasil (game-winning goal)