|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars fell in their first overtime and shootout game of the year Friday night against the Colorado Eagles, 2-1.
A wild 3-on-3 overtime period saw Texas just miss on several quality chances. The best chance of them all was a penalty shot from Fredrik Karlstrom after a penalty on a breakaway. But Karlstrom, just like the rest of the Stars in the shootout, couldn't find the back of the net against Colorado goaltender Justus Annunen.
"We worked on our 3-on-3 on Tuesday," Stars head coach Neil Graham said. "It was something we addressed this week knowing we've gone ten games without 3-on-3. We said (that) it's only a matter of time till we find ourselves in that spot.
"I actually thought we implemented a lot of things and made some plays and just really probably missed the final step, which was putting one of the net."
The Stars defense struggled against San Jose as goaltender Jake Oettinger allowed 10 goals on 51 shots in the series last weekend. But Oettinger and his defense stepped up Friday, shutting down the Eagles for the majority of regulation despite early missteps and a rough third period.
Just 20 seconds into the first period, Nick Caamano was called for cross-checking.
The Stars' penalty kill, which had held opponents to a strong 87.5% clip before the San Jose series, was only 5-9 against the Barracuda.
But strong PK play from Alex Petrovic and Rhett Gardner in what could have been a continuation of the defensive woes helped Texas stay afloat.
"The guys just beared down and did what we talked about during the week," Oettinger said.
In both the early Caamano penalty and another cross-check called on Gardner, Oettinger only faced one or two true quality chances, turning both away with ease.
The goalie looked calm and composed in goal Friday night despite his recent struggles, a disjointed start to the first period and a rotating cast of defenders. With recent roster shuffling, Stars head coach Neil Graham elected to go with a rotation of 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
Graham also decided to stick with Anthony Louis, who returned to the lineup against San Jose after being scratched for a few games and picked up three assists and was plus-1 in last weekend's series.
Louis earned his playing time with his stellar play against the Barracuda and earned some more this Friday, scoring his first goal of the season with a beautiful play created all on his own.
Skating left to right with patience, the left winger caught Annunen off guard late in the first period and sank a precisely-placed shot into the right corner of the net.
Jordan Kawaguchi was credited with the assist on a goal that Louis nearly self-created in one of the first Texas quality chances of the night.
But it wouldn't be the last. After starting off on the two penalty kills with a 7-4 deficit on shots, the Stars swung the momentum with a few power plays of their own, finishing the first period with 11 shots compared to the Eagles' eight.
Despite failing to find the back of the net with several good looks in the second period, Texas ended with a significant 22-13 margin on shots on goal.
In three power play chances, Graham elected to go with the Karlstrom-Back-Caamano line that buoyed the Stars against San Jose, where Back scored three goals, Caamano assisted on four and the trio was a combined plus-16 in two games.
Several shots from Fredrik Karlstrom and Riley Damiani were either just wide or turned away by Annunen, and the Stars would come away wishing they had those potential insurance goals after a poor third quarter.
After a holding call on Petrovic at the end of the second quarter (called at 20:00), Texas faced yet another early-period penalty kill.
It was Oettinger's time to shine, turning away a well-placed heater from Colorado's Jacob MacDonald for what may have been the Eagles' best chance of the night and then deflecting another quality opportunity from Callahan Burke later in the penalty kill.
But amid a barrage of shots from the Eagles, his stellar play just hit one snag too many in the middle of the third period. After a tangle in front of the goal left Oettinger without his stick and turned the wrong direction and the puck high in the air, Colorado's Andreas Wingerli read the high-arcing puck perfectly to tap it into goal.
"Their guy kind of stepped on the back of my ankle," Oettinger said. "I didn't really know where the puck went."
The Karlstrom-Back-Caamano line almost got back on the board this weekend, but a rebound opportunity for Karlstrom after a slick one-timer from Caamano glanced off the shoulder pad of Annunen. The other Stars quality chance in the third on a Kawaguchi breakaway just had too much: the potential insurance goal sailed right as he got back into the lineup Friday after being scratched against San Jose.
After a disjointed start to the first period that had stoppage after stoppage, Texas settled in to play 40 minutes of good hockey. Then, the Stars played a third period they'd like to have back.
"We probably controlled the first 40 in a lot of aspects," Graham said. "They seemed to get a little stronger in the third, and you could tell we were a little defensive. What I mean by that is we don't want to sit back with a lead. We want to be aggressive."
The Stars will have a chance to return to form and be aggressive against Colorado on Saturday night. Texas will play the Eagles for the fourth time in six games and hope to pick up its first win against Colorado at H-E-B Center tomorrow.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Dellandrea, Cecconi (day-to-day)
Martin (arm laceration)
Texas ran 11 forwards and seven defensemen
Tonight’s attendance was 4,988.