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Wolves finish trip in style

Grand Rapids 2 | Chicago 4
Lajoie's career-high-tying 3-point night features highlight-reel pass

The Chicago Wolves capped an eight-game, 23-day road trip with a 4-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Thursday night at Van Andel Arena.

Forwards Anthony Richard, Phil Tomasino and David Cotton and defenseman Max Lajoie scored for the Wolves (17-5-1-2), who moved two points closer to clinching the AHL’s Central Division title.

Lajoie and center Tommy Novak added two assists apiece while goaltender Connor Ingram (1-2-1) rejected 29 shots to earn his first win in a Chicago uniform.

The Wolves broke on top 5:05 into the game with Richard’s short-handed goal. Lajoie collected the puck deep in the defensive zone and lobbed a backhand ahead to set up a breakaway for Richard, who deked goaltender Pat Nagle to score his fourth goal in the last three games.

Chicago pushed its lead to 2-0 at 6:18 of the second on Tomasino’s goal set up by Cotton’s hustle. He spied the puck resting behind Grand Rapids’ net, blasted between two Griffins to secure possession, flipped it to Novak and then watched as Novak’s short pass set up Tomasino’s shot into an open net.

Grand Rapids (12-8-3-0) responded with Kris Criscuolo’s power-play goal at 9:58 to cut the margin to 2-1, but the Wolves regained their two-goal lead thanks to an odd-man rush led by Novak. He connected with Lajoie racing down the slot, then Lajoie dished a no-look pass between his legs to Cotton for a quick snap from the right circle.

The Griffins again closed within a goal on defenseman Joe Hicketts’ blast with 23 seconds left in the second period.

The score remained 3-2 until the final minute of the game. Grand Rapids removed Nagle (5-5-0) in favor of an extra attacker, but Lajoie seized a puck in front of Ingram and wristed it 180 feet into the heart of the net for the 4-2 final margin.

Chicago hosts the Iowa Wild at 7 p.m. Friday for their first game at the Wolves Training Facility in Hoffman Estates since April 3. To watch all the action, go to AHLTV.com.