|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
“I just lost a faceoff dead clean and Roope [Hintz] jumped on it and somehow got a tie-up. And then [Denis Gurianov] jumped in and did a good job to get the puck to the net, and I just kind of found a quiet spot and was fortunate to get a bouncer to me.“
It was the first postseason overtime victory for the Texas Stars since Patrik Nemeth went top shelf for the Calder Cup clincher. The physicality of the Reign was on full display, especially in the second period where it put Texas on their heels a bit. Speed won the day though.
“We played right into their hands [in the second],” said Sheldon Dries. “They got those two quick goals but once we settled down and started playing our game--you saw we got two goals in the third and that’s the way we want to play.”
Flynn continued, “We’re not going to beat them by playing that big, heavy game right at them. We’re going to use our legs--that’s our biggest asset as a team and scoring in transition. “
The Stars opened the scoring with a great effort from their bottom six. Dries scored the first goal of the playoffs, cashing in on a pass from Colin Markison behind the net.
“It was a great play by Markison and [Laberge] there,” said Dries. “Marky chips it deep and Sammy is the first guy on the puck, throws it to the front of the net--I just happened to be there. But that’s the way we gotta play. Simple game for us, but at the same time hard on the body.”
Texas would hold that lead to the end of the frame, where they were outshot 12-7 but looked good overall.
Ontario ramped up the physical play in the second period. Texas got caught up in it a bit, engaging in scrums behind plays and at the net more than in the first. Justin Auger broke the scoreless tie with one of his own men down on the ice in the zone. Austin Wagner was clipped on the play but did return to play later. With the chaos of traffic, Roy's shot found twine off the tip from Auger.
A few minutes later, Colin Markison saw his equipment betray him to deny a sure goal. Texas had Markison all alone on the backside of the net when his stick snapped in two on the shot. The tie remained until a few more minutes later.
Mike Amadio drew double coverage in the corner but managed to separate Andrew Bodnarchuk from the puck. A quick pass to an unguarded Jonny Brodzinski in the slot put the Stars down by one. With forty minutes in the books, Texas trailed 2-1.
The Stars found themselves behind in more than a few contests this season and played the second-most OT games in the league despite that.
Denis Gurianov had a chance to score in the second period and chose an ill-advised drop pass instead. In the third, he made no mistake. On a 2-on-1 with Roope Hintz, the Russian forward collected a smooth cross-crease pass from the Finn and deposited it in a yawning net for the 2-2 tie. The crowd was back into the game with the goal.
Laxdal commented, “You look at Denis’s goal with Roope. That’s an NHL goal.”
Texas went up 3-2 on Travis Morin’s 17th career postseason goal, the most in franchise history. Good pressure from his reconfigured line with Curtis McKenzie and Justin Dowling led to the big goal and set up a final minute showdown.
The AHL’s best compensated forward, Matt Moulson, made no mistake with the 6-on-5 chance for Ontario and sent the game to overtime. In the extra frame, it didn’t take long. Just 1:55 in, Flynn got the winner.
Postgame he noted that Texas had “no panic” in their locker room at the prospect of OT. “We got a lot of older guys in there. And I don’t know how many OT games we’ve played this year, but it feels like a ton. You just make the percentage play and then maybe you get a bounce at the net like that.”
Texas will face Ontario tomorrow night for Game 2 in Cedar Park.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Hanna, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 4,878.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Ontario - April 19 2018