|(Photo Credit: Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins Hockey)
Grand Rapids, MI - The Texas Stars overcame a two-goal third period deficit with goals from Ryan Shea and Josh Melnick, but the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings affiliate) wanted no part of overtime, scoring just six seconds into the extra-frame to beat Texas 5-4 Wednesday night at Van Anel Arena, in the opener of a four-game road trip for the Stars.
Grand Rapids got out of the gate early when Dennis Yan found a loose puck in the crease and with multiple Griffins laying on Texas goalie Matt Jurusik, put it in the back of the net to give Grand Rapids a 1-0 lead just 2:58 into the game. While no call was made, it was a textbook version of what goalie interference is, it is a non-reviewable call at the AHL level, much to Stars head coach Neil Graham's chagrin.
Six minutes later, Brett McKenzie found a ping-ponging puck at his feet that he backhanded under Jurusik's glove, to extend the Griff's lead to 2-0.
Texas climbed back into the game with 5:37 left in the opening frame when Texas, on their first power play of the night, cut the lead in half on Joel L'Esperance's cannon from the point, for his team-leading 21st goal of the season. The tally from L'Esperance, assisted by Ben Gleason and Curtis McKenzie, was his eighth power play goal of the season, tying him with Anthony Louis for the team-lead in that category.
The ink hadn't gone dry, and the announcements hadn't even been made when just nine seconds later, off of the ensuing Riley Damiani faceoff win, Alex Petrovic took a quick Melnick pass and fired a shot past Griffin goaltender Calvin Pickard, knotting the game at 2-2 with 5:28 left in the first.
Grand Rapids outshot Texas 13-11 in the first as they took the 2-2 tie to the intermission.
Texas seemed to find their rhythm early in the second period, with multiple opportunities with extended offensive zone time throughout the first half of the frame, only for Pickard to meet the challenge each time. The situation appeared to get brighter for Texas when they got a chance to take their first lead of the night on their second of their two power play opportunities on the evening, but just 18 seconds into job, Grand Rapids retook their lead 3-2 on Dominik Shine's short-handed goal.
Texas finished the night 1 for 2 on the power play while holding the Griffins without a chance.
The remainder of the power play went uneventfully shotless, and the teams went scoreless the remainder of the period. Texas did not look bad in the middle frame despite being outshot 11-10 but were unable to solve Pickard in the stanza.
Josh Dickinson, brother of former Star Jason Dickinson, gave the Griffins their second two-goal lead of the night when he five-holed Jurusik, lifting Grand Rapids to a commanding 4-2 lead, just 6:09 into the third.
Down by 2, Texas could have easily packed up and called it a night to look for future fortunes, but the team, showing no quit, cut the Griff's lead to 4-3 on Ryan Shea's second goal of the season with 8:19 left in regulation, giving hope for at least a late chance.
Enter Josh Melnick, who redirected a Ben Gleason shot into the back of the net with just 3:08 left in regulation for his eighth goal of his injury-plagued season, tying the game at 4-4.
Gleason's two assists on Wednesday, gives him a team-high 29 on the season, good for 12th among active players.
The teams closed out the period scoreless, and the teams headed to overtime for the third time in the season series. Grand Rapids' Turner Ellison wasted no time scoring the game winner just six seconds into the free hockey, sending the 4,712 in attendance to the gates in ecstatic fashion.
Jurusik ended the night saving 27 of 32 shots in the loss while Pickard turned away 24 of 28 in earning the win.
With the OTL, Texas sees their record hold steady at 21-22-6-5 (53 pts/.491%) to remain in a virtual tie with the Iowa Wild in sixth place of the AHL Central Division, mere percentage points behind Rockford for the fifth and final playoff spot.
In victory, Grand Rapids sees their record improve to 26-23-5-2 (59 pts/.527%) but remain solidly in fourth in the division.
Texas and Grand Rapids meet again Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET at Van Andel Arena.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Khudobin (injury, out for season)
Comeau (back injury, has not played)
Kawaguchi, Lipanov, Martin (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 4,712.