|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
"The goaltender was the difference in the third period," noted Coach Laxdal. "We had three or four grade A looks where he made huge saves."
The Stars kept things tight throughout but did not develop a strong sense of urgency until the third period. By the time they had, Mazanec was locked in.
Justin Dowling summarized, "I think it was maybe he was in our heads a little bit. When we get that many chances, usually they go in the net. That's how it goes some nights."
Off the hop, Texas allowed two quick goals, putting them down 2-0 just five minutes into the game.
"Right off the bat we were watching a bit. We were sleepy. Sometimes when a top team comes in, you get caught watching a bit."
What could have been a long night for the Stars was quickly counteracted by Remi Elie's fourth of the season. It was a sweeping move right-to-left across Mazanec, easily finished into an open net. Justin Dowling stepped up next as the penalty kill continued its scoring ways with a shorthanded marker.
"[Coach Karl Taylor] wants us to pressure more and pick and choose the spots to pressure when pucks are on the wall or backs are facing us. In the NHL, some of the best PKs are where players are flying around and not letting them get set up."
Early in the second, Texas claimed a lead with Brendan Ranford finishing a rebound off a Travis Morin shot. Morin was playing in his 500th career AHL game, a milestone acknowledged before the game.
The aggressive PK was victimized shortly thereafter with Reid Boucher left all alone to beat Landon Bow and tie the game at 3.
Felix Girard pushed the Ads ahead with a wrist shot early in the third. It would be the game winner. Texas waited until the third period to get gritty, in their coach's estimation. It's been a recurring issue for the club. "We were a little cute in the offense zone," he assessed. "Dickinson, Smith, and Gurianov gave us a lot of energy in the third period and got us kickstarted."
But luck and skill combined to deny Texas. Gemel Smith muffed an easy tap-in on a 3-on-1. Marek Mazanec had repeated ten-bell saves, including a stretched-leg effort on Justin Dowling that tricked the goal horn operator at the CPC.
A final 6-on-5 effort would fall short and Texas would fall 4-3. The rematch is tomorrow night.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Backman (mid-body injury)
Anselmini, Van Brabant, Ully, Herbert, Desrosiers (scratch)
Landon Bow left the game in the third period with the flu. Lagace stopped all three shots he faced in relief.
Tonight's attendance was 3,952.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Milwaukee - December 16 2016