Stars Overcome Penalty Woes to Down Penguins in Shootout

The Texas Stars improved upon their perfect record in 2020 (6-0-0-0), defeating the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a shootout 4-3 on Friday. The contest concluded WBS’ first ever visit to Cedar Park as the Stars picked up wins in both games.

“In situations like that, that's when the character shines through,” said head coach Neil Graham. “And I think our guys do a good job; guys took advantage of a couple of very early goals.”

The character that he was referring to had to do with his team overcoming six total penalties that peppered the game at inopportune moments. The Stars carried a 3-2 lead into the third period, and the recipe for victory was rather simple: stay out of the box.

That didn’t happen. Dillon Heatherington’s penalty carried over from the second period, and the Stars committed two during the ensuing kill in short order. The litany of blunders gave the Penguins the opportunity to tie the game and force overtime.

The Penguins tallied one goal to tie the game at three, but the Stars successfully killed the rest, giving themselves an opportunity to still salvage the win. “The fact that we were able to kind of stop the bleeding at one [goal], take a breath three collect ourselves...I'm just proud of the composure of our group. We have a lot of character in our room.”

Nick Caamano had the opening goal less than two minutes into the game on a backhander and the winning tally in the shootout. After missing extended time due to injury recently, the young winger was happy to contribute.

Being being injured there and missing quite a few game--you always see the guys competing, and you want to do nothing more than just compete with them,” he said. “So it's nice to get back on the ice with the guys and obviously winning in a shootout here. It’s awesome.”

(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

Ben Gleason takes buried a wrister via a Jason Robertson drop pass at the blue line to push the early Stars lead to two. That goal forced the Penguins coaching staff to pull Dustin Tokarski, a curious decision given that he’s a .939 goaltender.

The fast start was critical, though the Penguins pushed back with two goals in the middle frame. “We didn't love our starts on Wednesday,” said Graham. “We wanted to come out with energy and pace. We want to be a little more connected in all three zones, and I thought we did that.”

Penguins defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph slammed Michael Mersch down behind the Penguins net halfway through the second period. Anthony Louis gave the Stars back the lead with a power play goal from the left circle.

The Stars took four penalties in the middle frame, one of which led to the game-tying goal. The Heatherington penalty at the end of the period was one domino that could have been catastrophic to the Stars’ chances of winning. If this were two months ago, there is no doubt in my mind that they would have lost. But not this version of the Stars. What is different?

“I think you almost have to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. Our group has grown so much [because] we've seen a lot of different situations. You know what it takes to win a game; we've gone up, we've gone down. You can see the guys, they're just more comfortable in those uncomfortable situations.”

The Stars got contributions from several key players. Among them were Emil Djuse, who chipped in with two primary assists, and Jake Oettinger, who turned away 27 of 30 shots. His final save percentage wasn’t that impressive, but the high danger chances he turned away coupled with his play in the shootout contest were sublime.

Next week features four games against division opponents--critical contests that all of a sudden have real playoff implications.

“Everyone's still fighting and clawing for points. And it's a very tight division. So for us, it's important not to get too ahead of ourselves, because four games in a short span can be daunting. Our next opponent is Iowa, so that’s the one we need to be focused on.”

The puck drops at 12:00 PM on MLK Day.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Palve, MacKay (scratch)
Mascherin (injury)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,917.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Toronto - January 10 2020