|(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)|
"One goal games can go either way," noted Derek Hulak, who scored tonight. "We're right there [with them]. We have to find a way to crack the curse."
The curse he refers to is the winless record the Stars have against Ontario with only a single game left between the two in the regular season. Of course, tonight's score of 1-1 through most of the contest was a far cry from the 7-6 loss to start the series
"Our coaching staff has done a good job putting focus on our defensive play. It's been growing and getting better, and I think you see it in our last stretch of games here. The guys have been coming together, buying into the systems."
Maxime Lagace was the true story of the night. Texas had no right to be in the game after the second period. Tied at one, Lagace and the Stars had to stop three consecutive Reign power plays
"The guys were doing a great job on the PK," said Lagace. "I could see every shot. All I had to do was make the save."
When the game began, it looked like it could be another one of those 7-6 contests. Each team scored on its first shot. Derek Hulak opened things for Texas, pointing skyward in his Pink in the Rink jersey on his celebration as a nod to his mother and his friend, Cody Smuk, both of whom died of cancer.
Hulak noted, "Pink in the Rink is near and dear to my heart. [Cancer is] something that has affected every one in one way or another. It's just another game when you get out there. You try not to think about it, but it was pretty special."
Ontario scored three minutes later on their first shot.
"It's going to happen in the season, a lucky bounce for them," said Lagace. "I had to bounce back, make the next save. That's all I was thinking about."
Despite a 2-to-1 shots deficit throughout the game, the Stars appeared poised for overtime late in the third. Stephen Johns looked to skate the puck up and lost it to a forechecking Reign forward. Sean Backman buried it on the ensuing scramble for the 2-1 lead with 32.4 seconds left.
Texas would head to the Ontario zone and earn a power play for the 6-on-4 advantage with 16 seconds left. Jason Dickinson continued his hot play with the tying tally from the slot with just 5 seconds remaining.
Coach Laxdal philosophized that "overtime is overtime," alluding to the often coin-flip nature of the extra period. Texas got burned on a missed call that put the Stars down 3-on-2 heading back into their zone. Vincent LoVerde picked a corner for the 3-2 victory.
These two teams battle again tomorrow.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa (call up)
Rallo, Shore, Dowling, Morin (injury)
Evans, Muse, Mangene (scratch)
Stephen Johns wore the captain's C in Morin's absence.
Tonight's attendance was 4,142.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Ontario - February 26 2016