Official Box Score
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
Joey MacDonald made 13 of his 23 saves in the third period for his third career shutout versus Houston, and he and the Grand Rapids Griffins outdueled rookie Josh Harding and the Aeros 1-0 at Van Andel Arena. Darryl Bootland scored the lone goal 7:23 into the game for Grand Rapids, which snapped a four-game winless streak (0-3-1-0).
Harding stopped 18 shots, just missing his second straight shutout of the Griffins. Harding and the Aeros bested MacDonald 1-0 last Saturday in Grand Rapids. The Aeros rookie lowered his goals against average to 1.81.
Houston, which had its three-game winning streak snapped, has seen each of its first nine road games be decided by one goal, tying a franchise record. The Aeros, who welcomed Mikko Koivu back to the lineup after a 12-game absence due to an appendectomy, are at Milwaukee Saturday at 1:30 p.m. A win over the Admirals would move Houston (16 points) into a first-place tie with Milwaukee.
A superb defensive effort helped MacDonald even his career mark versus Houston at 6-6-0. He needed to make only four saves in the first period, six in the second but 13 in the third. MacDonald joined former teammate Marc Lamothe and Hartford Wolf Pack goalie Jason LaBarbera as goalies with three career shutouts against Houston. It was his 11th shutout overall, moving past Lamothe for first place on the Griffins all-time list. MacDonalds 1.95 goals against average versus Houston is the fifth-best in AHL play, and hes gone 107:42 without allowing a goal to the Aeros.
Bootland gave MacDonald all the support he would need 7:23 into the game, just after the Aeros killed off a too many men on the ice penalty. Bootland crashed the net and slid an Eric Himelfarb rebound past Harding, who ended up at the bottom of a big pile. The tally snapped Houstons shutout streak at 130:26.
Players from both sides were involved in an ensuing fracas, and 24 penalty minutes were assessed all to Houston. Grand Rapids went on a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes. With barely a minute gone on that advantage, Houstons John Erskine was sent off for cross checking, giving the Griffins their fourth power play of the opening 10 minutes.
Houstons Ray Giroux hit the post with seven minutes left in the first, and seconds later the Aeros went on their first power play when Stephane Veilleux was tripped up in front of the net. At that point, Grand Rapids enjoyed a 7-1 advantage in shots.
Through 20 minutes, Houston had 30 penalty minutes, and the Griffins had just four.
Grand Rapids, which allowed Houston just four shots in the first period, continued the strong defensive effort, as the Aeros launched only six in the second. Houston was averaging more than 42 shots per game over its last three contests.
Harding gloved away a Brett Lebda power-play rocket just past the midway point of the second period to help the Aeros stay within one.
Houston turned up the heat in the third period, outshooting Grand Rapids 13-4, but MacDonald was unwavering.
MacDonald sprawled on his back to make a save on Kyle Wanvig two minutes into the third. Seconds later, he just got a piece of his glove on a Rickard Wallin attempt.
The Aeros got a chance with 7:51 left when Bryan Helmer was called for holding, but the Griffins clamped down and allowed only one shot, blocking several more before they made it all the way to MacDonald.
Houston pulled Harding and called timeout with 1:28 left and a faceoff in front of MacDonald. Wallin just missed the post off the restart.
Houston finished 0-for-5 on the power play, while Grand Rapids went 0-for-7. The Aeros have killed off 22 straight shorthanded chances, while the Griffins are 32 for their last 33. Houston finished with 42 penalty minutes, and Grand Rapids had only 10.
Aeros captain Kirby Law played in his 400th pro game. He and Koivu were each sent off for both roughing and a 10-minute misconduct after Bootlands goal.
Houstons four first-period shots tied a season low.
The Aeros have allowed the first goal in six of Hardings eight starts.
The teams dont meet again until Grand Rapids comes to Houston on January 22. The Aeros make only one more trip to Grand Rapids February 9.
Houstons scratches were Christoph Brandner, Junior Lessard, Todd Reirden and Chris Heid.
The Aeros have scored just 14 goals in Hardings eight starts. Harding has allowed two goals or less in six of his eight starts, and the Aeros have been shut out in each of his last two losses.
Houston also played nine straight one-goal road games from January 27-March 1, 1997.
The Aeros have allowed an AHL-high 17 first-period goals.
Houston has scored one or fewer goals in three of its last five road games.
Each of the three meetings between the teams this season has been decided by one goal.