|Valeri Nichushkin and Xavier Oullet battle in front of Tom McCollum.|
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
"I thought it was a great game with a lot of speed and intensity," said Grand Rapids goalie Tom McCollum. "I told our equipment manager after the first period that it felt like we were playing ourselves. We have very similar systems and play at a high tempo."
Grand Rapids owed much of its success on the night to McCollum, who pitched a 34-save shutout.
"I felt like I was seeing the puck well early. My defensemen and forwards were giving me clear lanes and making it an easy night."
Jack Campbell was good at the other end, giving Texas a chance to win with 36 saves on 38 shots. In the end, the Stars couldn't penetrate McCollum with enough quality chances to break his shutout.
Coach Laxdal expanded, "We've got to manufacture more shots, funnel more pucks to the net. We need more traffic. We're getting boxed out. We've got to do a better job getting pucks to the net through that second layer."
Texas had its chances to get on the board with three power plays in the game. McCollum and the Griffins were aware of the Stars' prowess on the PP and "paid a lot of attention to it" in pre-scouting.
Grand Rapids executed when they had chances. Their first goal came directly off a defensive zone faceoff where Coach Laxdal noted they took advantage of young centerman Devin Shore. Andreas Atahansiou won the puck forward toward the net to Mark Zengerle, who scored uncontested by a skater.
The Stars and Griffins combined for 36 shots in the second period with Texas trailing 1-0 after 40.
The visitors added another early in the third to set the final score at 2-0, a quick shot that the referee didn't even register as a goal at first.
Texas was unable to convert anything with the extra attacker. Many of their best chances came in the high-shooting second, but McCollum smothered them all.
Coach Laxdal concluded, "Could we ask for more in certain areas? Maybe. But it was a good game."
Finally, the night was notable for Dallas Stars fans as it marked the first game action for Valeri Nichushkin in five months. The left winger had no points and was minus-1 on the scoresheet. However, those stats didn't tell the whole story. He was the best player on the ice for Texas most of the night, making strong plays look simple and effortless.
"For a player that hasn't played in five months, he's a special player. You can see how strong he is on the puck. For him to get through a game and feel good about himself, I think he'll be better tomorrow night."
Tomorrow's game will feature these two teams back at it again.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Bystrom, Valentine, Mangene, Peters (scratch)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)
Tonight's attendance was 5,079.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - March 27 2015