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Griffins living on the edge while building 2-0 lead

Associated Press • Jun 4, 2017 at 7:26 PM

GRAND RAPIDS – Being on the winning side of one of these marathons felt a lot better to Ben Street.

Street scored at 7 minutes, 2 seconds of double overtime Saturday, finally giving Grand Rapids a dramatic 6-5 victory over Syracuse, and lifting the Griffins a 2-0 lead in the AHL Calder Cup Finals.

"I've been on the losing end of a double-overtime game – it's depressing," said Street, who looked as relieved and exhausted as his teammates in the wee hours Saturday night after this four-hour battle.

Street, incidentally, was with the Abbotsford Heat in 2014 when it lost a double-overtime heartbreaker in the conference quarterfinals.

The team that defeated Abbotsford that evening? The Grand Rapids Griffins.

"The feeling is like excitement to score and then relief that we won," said Street, who turned from goat to hero after taking a delay of game penalty in the first overtime, which Syracuse was unable to convert into a winning goal. "For us, we feel like we stole it a little bit."

That, too, was a popular theme in the Griffins' room after Saturday's victory.

Grand Rapids now holds a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series – two victories away from a second Calder Cup championship in five years, both against Syracuse – but there's a sense of an uneasiness.

Grand Rapids won with 14 seconds left in the game in Game 1, then swiped Game 2 in double overtime after getting badly outplayed in the first overtime – surviving only on three miraculous saves by goalie Jared Coreau.

So now it's off to Syracuse for three games (Game 5, if necessary) knowing this series is hardly over.

Syracuse, incidentally, is 9-0 in the postseason at its smallish, fans-on-top-you home rink, War Memorial Arena, which seats 8,000.

"They know they could have won both games," said Griffins coach Todd Nelson of Syracuse. "Right now they have the advantage going back to Syracuse, where they are unbeaten. They're thinking, '(Grand Rapids) took care of business, so let's take care of business at home.'

"It's going to be a battle. It's two very good hockey teams going at it. It's a lot of fun to watch."

Saturday's victory gave Grand Rapids a 13-2 record in the playoffs, the timely goaltending of Coreau and the depth of the Griffins' lineup being keys.

Coreau had an up-and-down evening at times, but making 50 saves – including 19 in the first overtime – kept the Griffins alive.

Coreau made a highlight-reel stop on the Crunch's Kevin Lynch (Grosse Pointe / University of Michigan) on the doorstep in the first overtime, flashing his left leg to make a game-saving save.

"I thought it was going in," said Nelson.

"As long as you win, that's the biggest thing," Coreau said. "If it would have been 10-9 tonight, as long as we win, I'm OK with it. It's the big picture, it's the Cup, and there might be another game where the guys may have to bail me out early."

Grand Rapids scored three power-play goals Saturday, extending its streak of playoff games with a power-play goal to 13.

The Griffins are also undefeated in three overtime games this playoff season.

Contributions are being made throughout the lineup, and the Griffins' playoff experience appears to be coming through.

But they realize there's much work still to do before they can bring back another Calder Cup to Grand Rapids.

"We know we're in a series," captain Nathan Paetsch said. "We have two (victories) and we need four. There's definitely no overconfidence in this room. We're playing an extremely good hockey team. We're in for a long battle."

Calder Cup Finals

Syracuse vs. Grand Rapids

All games at 7 p.m.

Game 1: Grand Rapids 3-2

Game 2: Grand Rapids 6-5 (2OT)

Game 3: Wednesday: at Syracuse

Game 4: Friday: at Syracuse

x-Game 5: Saturday: at Syracuse

x-Game 6: June 13: at Grand Rapids

x-Game 7: June 14: at Grand Rapids

x-If necessary

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