GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Iowa Wild were 53 seconds from forcing overtime and earning at least a point on Wednesday night, but three goals in the final minute gave the Grand Rapids Griffins a 4-1 victory. Givani Smith provided two of those tallies and Calvin Pickard made 20 saves to earn the victory. With the loss, the Wild ended their six-game road trip 2-2-1-1 (eight points).
After a scoreless first period, the Griffins took the lead just before the 10-minute mark of the second. Kyle Wood’s shot from the point was saved by Mat Robson, but the rebound came right to Eric Tangradi, who was alone at the left post. Robson tried to slide over to get in front of the shot, but Tangradi slid the puck between the Wild goaltender’s pads for his ninth goal of the year.
Iowa was having a lot of trouble trying to get things going, with the Grand Rapids defense smothering them in the neutral zone. The Wild had just 13 shots through the first two periods, with few scoring chances.
Iowa was able to get a little pressure on Pickard after the five-minute mark of the third, putting together six straight shots, including an incredible opportunity at the midway point of the frame. After Nico Sturm’s shot just inside the left faceoff circle was smothered by Pickard, forcing a stoppage, the Wild won the draw. Colton Beck took a shot that the Griffins’ goalie stopped, but the puck was loose right in front of the net. Cody McLeod tried to stuff it between the legs of Pickard, but the netminder was able to get his stick down and smother the attempt.
It looked like Pickard was going to blank the Wild, but with a little less than four minutes left in the game, the red-hot Luke Johnson delivered a power play goal to tie the score at one. The faceoff was won in the Griffins end. The pass came back to Brennan Menell, who quickly fed it Johnson at the top of the left faceoff circle. Johnson gained control before firing a blistering wrist shot beat Pickard over the shoulder for his 18th goal of the year.
The goal was his 13th power play tally of the year and his 11th goal since February 9. Sam Anas earned an assist on the goal, giving him 50 for the season. He becomes the second player in franchise history to reach that mark in a single season.
This game looked like it had an extra session written all over it, but a pair of penalties gave Grand Rapids a 5-on-3 advantage with 1:40 left. With 53 seconds remaining in regulation, Matthew Ford passed the puck along the end boards to Michael Rasmussen on the other side of the net. He quickly fed it out in front to Matt Puempel, who blasted the one-timer by Robson for his 17th goal of the year.
The Wild twice pulled Robson in the final minute looking to tie the score, but both times Smith answered with empty-net tallies to seal the 4-1 victory.
Despite taking the loss, Robson was quite effective in net, stopping 26 of 28 shots he faced.
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