Texas Stars Top Manitoba 3-2, Earning Crucial Points in Tight Playoff Race

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Stars captured two critical points tonight in a head-to-head matchup with one of the four teams chasing the last playoff spot. In a crucial 4-on-4 sequence, Texas got a pair of tallies by two veterans within 34 seconds to go from down 2-1 to up 3-2, which would be the final score.

"It was a tight game," said head coach Derek Laxdal. "Every play that we make, every play that we stop, there was a lot of consequences to it, especially when we're down 2-1 and we have to battle back to tie it."

Dillon Heatherington scored the first game-winning goal of his career, a beauty of a backhander on a homerun pass from Erik Condra.

"I just saw Condra with the puck coming up the ice and saw a lapse in their D," said Heatherington. "I took a chance and their D man knocked down the flip so it worked out perfectly. I just went in there and went to the backhand."

Laxdal called tonight's game the best of Heatherington's season, "You can see that he had an energy in his persona before the game that he was going to help will this team to a win tonight."

With the W, Texas rises to 5th place in the Central Division, tied with Milwaukee. The Admirals defeated the IceHogs tonight to hit 73 points but in one fewer game than Texas, giving them the tiebreak.

"We're battling Milwaukee, Manitoba," added Laxdal. "Tonight's game was so big. If you lose in regulation, the separation between you and Manitoba almost knocks you out of the playoffs."

Texas got the first goal of the evening off the stick of Joel Hanley. Early in the first period, Hanley snuck down low and put what seemed to be a harmless backhand on net. The puck skittered along the ice and through the five hole of Mikhail Berdin. The next best chance of the frame came as Dellandrea's line buzzed the net and caught Berdin behind the cage on a puck that bounced out to the slot. The Moose goalie made it back just in time to halt Nick Caamano's bid with his glove.

The Moose answered in the second period on a fluky goal. Breaking in 1-on-3, Marko Dano just dumped one on net as he crossed the Texas blue line. Landon Bow got most of it but not all of it. The puck trickled in five hole, definitely one that Bow wants back in the worst way.

Late in the second with the Stars on the penalty kill, Caamano had a knee-on-knee hit as he covered the point. He finished the shift but limped to the bench afterwards and was clearly in a lot of pain. He waved off trainer Shay McGlynn but would come back in the third.

Seth Griffith scored his 13th of the year to put Manitoba up 2-1 early in the third period. There was no panic in the Stars' game, according to Heatherington. "It was a situation that we've become familiar with this year a little bit. That's not necessarily a good thing, but it is what it is. Everyone handled themselves well, especially the new guys coming in."

Some tussling in the corner led to a 4-on-4 sequence where Texas stepped up with the open ice. Michael Mersch nabbed a puck right off a Manitoba defender on a backcheck and turned around to score unassisted high over Berdin's blocker.

With the building already on fire, Heatherington's goal burned the place down as Texas reclaimed the lead and would not relinquish it.

"I thought that there was good poise on the bench, especially in the last five minutes of the game, where we didn't give up a lot, we didn't panic. Our key guys like Heatherington, Hanley, Bayreuther [were] shutting down their top two lines."

The Stars will look to bottle this up and hit the road against Iowa on Friday.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Desrosiers, Hanna, Nyberg, Calderone, Cuglietta (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,967.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Manitoba - March 27 2019