|Sheldon Dries scraps in the first period.|
(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
"If the effort wasn't good and we lost, we'd be disappointed," said Coach Laxdal. "We tried to play with more pace and stay out of the stuff after the whistle. It was a heavy game. They had a game plan to come in here and be physical against us."
The Reign shifted their lineup to add more heft, and it weighed on the Stars. Texas did get pulled into some after-the-whistle stuff but mostly stayed on the right side of the law. For the power play unit, it wasn't a lack of execution, it was in large part a great game from former Star Jack Campbell in net.
"If they're going to play physical and take penalties, their penalty kill has to be at the top of their game and their best penalty killer tonight was their goaltender."
Campbell collected his first win back at the H-E-B Center not in a Stars' uniform with 29 saves on 31 shots.
Texas did pierce his armor twice though, both on the power play. Early, Texas got a nice setup for a left-wing circle shot from Mark McNeill. The 5-on-3 PPG was his fourth goal of the year and set the score at 1-0.
"We just stuck with it," said McNeill of the power play's recent resurgence. "We're focusing on bearing down when we get out there. I don't think any of us are satisfied with where we're at."
Paul LaDue tied things up on the power play for Ontario and took it to the second with that scoreline. Texas got a power play goal from Curtis McKenzie, his 11th goal of the season, to push it back to a one-goal lead.
Coach Laxdal noted that Texas had a number of opportunities to go up 3-1 but couldn't salt it away on the power play or at even strength. The Stars even had 91 seconds of 5-on-3 that came up empty. Ontario "hung around" and got an even-strength tally, the only one of the night, to close the second. Laxdal said that goal "stung" the team.
With the score tied, Texas hit the third period and gave up a power play goal to Kevin Gravel middle of the period. Earning a late power play, Texas couldn't capitalize there or with the extra attacker, giving up an empty net goal for the 4-2 final.
Overall, Texas can't be too disappointed with the loss. The L brings them to 8-2 in their last ten, a respectable record by any stretch of the imagination. Things were working for the Stars tonight on special teams and while there were some things to clean up, a copy-paste effort on Saturday night could just as easily net them two points. This game is a learning moment for the younger, speedier players in what to do when faced with a physical club. Laxdal called out letting the puck do the work in these types of games as the Reign worked to take away the speed and hands of the Stars.
Texas gets back to it on Saturday night against Cleveland.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Ully, Rallo, (scratch)
Regner (upper body injury)
Brent Regner was out tonight with an upper body injury, and Laxdal noted the club missed his steadying presence on the backend. He could play Saturday.
Tonight's attendance was 4,448.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Ontario - December 13 2017