Despite a wide shot margin and seven power play opportunities, the Texas Stars dropped tonight's game in overtime to the Grand Rapids Griffins. The OT loss gave the Stars one point in the standings, which was crucial to maintaining their buoyancy in the West Division. After tonight's game, the standings have just 5 points between first and seventh.
However, Texas has games in hand against most of the teams in the division. The Stars have to start putting streaks together instead of "win one, lose one" to start gaining ground. "I don't know if anyone is going to get any separation in this division," said Coach Gulutzan. "We have a lot of teams that are very equal."
Grand Rapids got on the board first in this one. "The first five or eight minutes we weren't very good," said Gulutzan. Indeed just 4:25 in, Jamie Tardif scored to make it 1-0 as Texas got hemmed into their own zone one too many times. The Stars quickly got one back though off the stick of Brandon Segal. Segal did some independent contracting and took the puck along the goal line and finished with a backhand to tie it at one. The power play tally was assisted by Gagnon and Spang.
Texas wasted a 71 second long 5-on-3 opportunity in the late period and went to the room tied at 1. Grand Rapids had the only tally of the 2nd period, with a shot going 5 hole on Richard Bachman from the low left wing circle. Texas left the period down 2-1 despite a 22-12 shot advantage.
That advantage only expanded in the third. The Stars bombed 17 shots on Pearce in the third, trying to gain the lead. Early in the period, they at least got it even on a point shot from Jordie Benn. The tally, assisted by Sawada and Tousignant, was Benn's first AHL goal and tied the game at 2. Texas continued to pour it on 5 minutes later when Tousignant tipped a Brad Lukowich point shot at the net to make it 3-2. The Stars had their first lead of the night.
Despite a flurry of shots from the Stars, that would be the end of the goal scoring. "Their goalie played very well tonight," commented Tousignant. "We got a couple of chances that we didn't capitalize on." A call for hooking to Brandon Segal gave Grand Rapids a power play, which Jordan Owens made count. Owens tapped in a puck that deflected off traffic to tie the game at 3 and send it to OT.
The Griffins finished it out in the OT period with another goal from Owens. Texas finished with 42 shots in the game to the Griffins' 18. Fourteen of those were stopped by Bachman, as opposed to 39 by Jordan Pearce.
Texas is in action again on Friday against Houston, a key divisional matchup that will give them the chance to gain separation. However, something tells me it may not be until April that we know the playoff fates of many in the West.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Beskorowany, Stephenson, Roman (scratched)
Blindenbacher (upper body)
McCulloch, Krahn (lower body)
Tonight's attendance was 4,412.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - January 18 2011