|Colton Sceviour's goal in the second (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
"That was probably one of our best games of the year," said Coach Desjardins. "It was close all the way through."
The Stars played their best game of the year in front of a capacity crowd of 6,863, the team's second sellout of the season.
After trading goals in the second period, the contest turned on a scrum at the Charlotte net with 15 seconds left in the middle frame.
"It was just an intense shift with both teams battling," said Colton Sceviour, who scored his 31st of the year in the game. "It boiled over into pushing and shoving and the refs saw something that we did that warranted that call."
That call, a slew foot on Cameron Gaunce, put Texas on a five minute major penalty kill and endede Gaunce's night. The veteran defenseman will also be suspended pending review of the play by the League office.
"As much as we may have disagreed with it, all we could do was try and kill it."
Charlotte was able to score their second goal of the game with just 24 seconds left in the penalty. The Stars needed a comeback and found it on the power play themselves off the stick of Chris Mueller.
The game continued tied until overtime, where rookies Brendan Ranford and Matej Stransky scored in the sixth and seventh round to ensure the Texas win.
"We're not a team that's done well in shootouts this year. Our goaltending is superb and our goal scoring is lacking shootouts. To have Ranford score a big one to keep it going and Stransky up next to score and win it was huge for our team."
Cristopher Nilstorp was bombarded all game and came up solid, stopping 34 of 36 in regulation and overtime and four of seven in the shootout.
The only action of the first period saw Texas have a goal waved off due to goaltender interference. What would have been Brett Ritchie's third of the weekend was negated by referee Peter Tarnaris, who ruled Mike Hedden had interefered with Checkers goalie Justin Peters.
Texas would score to make up for it on the power play in the second. Birthday boy Curtis McKenzie put the puck in front of the Charlotte net for Chris Mueller, who dished to Colton Sceviour for the 1-0 lead. The goal extended Sceviour's league goal scoring lead to 31. He had been high sticked on the previous play, but it went uncalled.
"Anytime you get whacked in the face or something like that, it's nice to go out and score on the power play right after. It kinda made the pain go away temporarily."
At the other end of the ice, Philippe Cornet would finish a two-on-one with Ryan Murphy to make it one all just a minute later.
Late in the period, Chris Mueller got into a shoving match with Justin Peters and found himself surrounded by white jerseys. The Texas defense even got involved, which is where Cameron Gaunce picked up his match penalty. Gaunce appeared to get his feet tangled with Jared Staal and took him down.
"I didn't see it because I was at the bottom of the pile," said Mueller. "I started it so I have to thank Gaunce for stepping in because they had all their guys coming at me. He was sticking up for a teammate and that's all we ask."
Coach Desjardins was very political regarding the call, saying that it was probably the right one.
Texas mounted a five minute major penalty kill, which nearly came up perfect. With 24 seconds left, Mark Flood floated one in on Nilstorp for the 2-1 lead.
"[The penalty kill] was huge because it was so tight," said Desjardins. "We knew they might get one on that power play. They were a bit lucky. They had gone through their units, and they were a bit tired. They got a wrist shot from the point."
Texas battled through and earned a power play when Sean Dolan tripped up a Stars skater.
Chris Mueller dictates the play, "It was scrambling in the beginning and then [Fortunus] got it to the net. It bounced off one of their guys and McKenzie made a great pass to me and I had an open net. Both power play goals were because of McKenzie."
Despite a frenetic final minute of regulation and overtime, the Stars needed a shootout to decide the game. Dustin Jeffrey scored five hole and Colton Sceviour potted one on his usual forehand-backhand move, but the score was tied after five rounds. Brody Sutter scored in round 6, putting Texas in a must-score scenario. Coach Desjardins called on Brendan Ranford, who had not played the entire overtime, to shoot. Ranford deposited the disc behind Peters to continue to contest.
After Nilstorp denied Charlotte's Brett Sutter, Desjardins again called a rookie to finish the game.
"They're both good around the net," he said. "They've been good at different times and scored in other shootouts. They'll find a way. They're young, but I wasn't worried about that."
Stransky looked like an old hand, outwaiting Peters on a deke and slipping the puck in easy on the right side for the win.
"Great moves," said Chris Mueller. "Especially guys on the fourth line so they probably didn't get a shift in overtime and probably didn't get a shift after the five minute mark in the third. For them to come off the bench cold and be clutch like that is unbelievable."
The Stars improved to 71 points with the win, tying Abbotsford at the top of the league in points. They stay in fourth though as the Heat have played fewer games to reach that total. The Heat play tomorrow at Chicago and could drop to fourth, slipping Texas into first, if they lose in regulation.
Texas plays again early on Tuesday in Cleveland against the Monsters.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wrenn, Labrie, Wathier (scratch)
Petersen, Campbell, Vause (injury)
Tonight's attendance was 6,863. It was Texas' second sellout of the season.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Charlotte - February 22 2014