ABBOTSFORD, B.C. -- The Grand Rapids Griffins made a statement Saturday that the defending American Hockey League champions intend to make another long playoff run.
Andrej Nestrasil's three-point night helped Grand Rapids to a 7-2 win over the Abbotsford Heat and a 2-0 lead in its best-of-five first-round series.
The third-year pro scored his first two career AHL playoff goals and added an assist in the blowout victory.
"He's been good," said Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan. "He was in Toledo (ECHL) last year but he's a skilled player. When we lose guys like (Tomas Tatar) and (Tomas) Jurco, guys who go up to the Red Wings, we need somebody to fill that role and he's done a fantastic job for us."
The Griffins now head back home in hopes of a sweep after taking both games at the Abbotsford Centre. The Griffins won 2-1 on Friday in double overtime.
"Yesterday was the first game of the playoffs, so everyone was kind of nervous," said Nestrasil. "I felt that sometimes we were trying to make plays, even if they weren't there. Today we started a little more simple and it came out of that. We didn't let them shoot. They scored two first-period goals, five shots on net, so we're going to try to play better defensively, because when you play well defensively you get the offensive chances after."
Ryan Sproul, the Game 1 overtime hero, and Teemu Pulkkinen each had a goal and two assists for Grand Rapids while Trevor Parkes, Cody Emmerton and Hoggan also scored for the visitors, whose parent club Detroit was eliminated from the NHL playoffs and is expected to send some bodies back for Game 3 on Wednesday.
"We've got some talented young guys back there," said Hoggan of rookie defencemen like Sproul. "This is the time when you want to see what they're all about. Playoff hockey is the toughest hockey. For them to step up, it's going to be huge for us to go on and go far. We know they're capable and they're doing it at crunch time."
Petr Mrazek had to stop just 15 shots, compared to his 55-save performance the night before.
Max Reinhart had a goal and an assist for Abbotsford, which may have played its final home game after it was announced last week that the franchise will not be back in the city next season.
Emile Poirier had the other goal, while Joni Ortio stopped 25-of-30 shots before being pulled. Doug Carr mopped up, making 14 saves.
Though the Heat were embarrassed on home ice, and cancelled their regular post-game presser, the Griffins know that Game 3 won't be easy.
"We have to make sure it's hard for them to get opportunities," said Nestrasil. "Every chance, they need to earn it and make sure they have to come through us all the time."
Abbotsford opened the scoring at the 7:40 mark of the first. Reinhart stepped into a shot in the high slot. Mrazek kicked it right to Poirier, who quickly brought the puck to his forehand and snapped it blocker side for his first professional playoff goal.
The visitors, however, tied the game not long after. Mattias Janmark drove hard to the net and centred for Parkes, who chipped it by Ortio for his first AHL playoff goal at 10:13.
The Heat regained the lead with a power-play goal at 15:32. Reinhart tried to centre for Ben Hanowski but it ricocheted off the skate of Brennan Evans.
Just 35 seconds later the Griffins again drew even when Sproul's one-timer from the point was deflected by Nestrasil.
Grand Rapids scored a short-handed goal late in the first to take their first lead. Emmerton made a move around one defender, then fought off another and chipped the puck past Ortio while falling to his backside, giving Detroit's 2006 second-round selection his first AHL playoff goal in five years.
Hoggan doubled the lead two minutes into the second period when he took a cross-ice feed from Pulkkinen and fired a wrist shot over the glove of Ortio, giving him 14 career AHL playoff goals.
Nestrasil chased Ortio at 11:19 of the second, snapping a shot short side from a bad angle.
"I just wanted to dump the puck in, but nobody came to me," said the Prague native. "I was basically walking into the zone. I just threw it at the net and it went through. I'm glad I can score a goal like that. I'm glad we scored a lot of goals because it gives the guys confidence."
Sproul scored a power-play goal at 6:45 of the third and Pulkkinen added another on the power play at 12:09.