|(Photo Credit: Tim Garland/Iowa Wild)|
Des Moines IA - Curtis McKenzie scored twice, including the game-winner and goalie Matt Jurusik came within 5 minutes of a shutout as the Texas Stars opened up a season-long 7-game road trip with a 4-2 victory over division rival the Iowa Wild (Minnestoa Wild affiliate) Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
Jurusik who was perfect for the first 55:23, gave up the 2 late goals as the Wild played with the extra-man under an empty net situation, finished the night with 31 saves on a night that saw Iowa outshoot the Stars 33-26 for the contest. With the win, Jurusik improved his record to a team-leading 6-2-3-1 as his GAA dropped to 2.75.
The opening period went scoreless with Texas outshooting the Wild 11-9. Neither team got many opportunities in a frame that each team seemingly unable to establish their offense as both teams were penalized twice. Both teams' penalty kill units met the challenge, with each team a perfect 2-2 for the period, as well as 4-4 on the night.
Texas opened up the scoring 5 minutes into the 2nd period when Oskar Back managed to hold the zone and flung the puck towards the net and Riley Tufte found it in traffic and buried it past Iowa goalie Zane McIntyre to give the Stars a welcome 1-0 lead. Tufte's goal, his 10th, added to his career-high and gave him 17 points on the season, also a career-high for the former first rounder from Minnesota.
With Tuesday's win, Texas is 12-6-2-3 when they score first.
Just short of 4 minutes later, after a heavy shot Jerad Rosburg from above the left circle found McIntyre's pads, creating multiple rebounds in front of the net, the last of which Frederik Karlstrom found, cleaned-up and put past the Wild netminder, to extend the Texas lead to 2-0.
Texas increased their lead to what seemed to be an insurmountable 3-0 lead 6:46 into the third period when McKenzie scored what turned out to be the game-winner with hard-work and pressure in front of the net. The Stars captain's goal was set-up with strong pressure and multiple shots generated the entire shift with the assists going to Joel L'Esperance and Anthony Louis.
Texas continued setting the pace the rest of the frame, as they had the entire game, despite being outshot 15-8 in the third - numbers somewhat skewed by going empty-net for most of the final 3:30.
Jurusik saw his bid for his second career shutout come to an end when a little puck-luck fell Iowa's way when Mason Shaw flipped a puck from behind the net and off of Jurusik's back and into the net for his 13th goal of the year and cutting the Texas lead to a still-manageable 3-1 with 4:47 left in the game.
Just over 2 minutes later, the Wild made things interesting when they went to sixtth-attacker and former San Antonio Rampage blueliner Turner Ottenbright lit the lamp to cut the score to 3-2 with just 2:13 left.
After an Iowa timeout, the teams returned to a frenzied pace and with just under a minute left and the players battling for the puck deep in the Stars defensive zone, McKenzie did the dirty work, dug out the puck and sent a prayer towards the empty Iowa goal, lighting the lamp for the second time on the night and his 15th of the season. Texas would go on to close out the period, ending the game with a hard earned 4-2 victory.
With the win the Stars have points in 3 straight games and improve their record to 16-18-5-4 (41 pts./.477%) but remain in the basement of the 7-team Central Division. With the regulation loss, Iowa falls out of the fifth-and-final division playoff spot into 6th at 20-20-3-3 (46 pts./.500), mere percentage points behind the 5th place Grand Rapids, who were idle Tuesday.
The Iowa and Texas take the day off on Wednesday and lace them back up on Thursday for a 7 p.m. puck drop at the Wells Fargo Center in Des Moines.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Caamano (4th straight, day-to-day), Damiani (4th straight, day-to-day), Melnick (5th, day-to-day), Comeau (back/has not played) Lipanov, Martin, Khudobin
Texas has not scored in their last 19 power play chances
Tonight's attendance was 2,827.