|(Photo Credit: Milwaukee Admirals)|
Milwaukee, WI - The Texas Stars came from behind twice and saw Riley Damiani score a goal in his first action in eight games, but the Stars were unable to solve Admiral goalie Connor Ingram in the shootout and lost 4-3 Friday night at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena in downtown Milwaukee.
Milwaukee got things started early when Egor Afanasyev fired one past Texas goalie Adam Scheel's blocker just 1:20 into the game, giving the Admirals a very early lead 1-0 to ride.
The remainder of the period went relatively uneventfully with Texas unsuccessful on the lone power play opportunity for either team in the opening frame. The period seemed balanced despite Milwaukee's 10-5 shot advantage, but the game took a turn late in the period when Texas turned the puck over, sending the Admirals on a 2-on-1 rush that Rocco Grimaldi buried for his team-leading 25th goal of the season, giving Milwaukee a 2-0 lead that they would take to the intermission.
The teams returned to the ice in the second with Texas clearly playing with a little more desperation and the Admirals content to manage their two-goal lead. The Stars outshot Milwaukee 15-11 in the frame and were unable to get to Ads netminder Ingram until a hot-of-late Jerad Rosburg found the tiniest of spaces between Ingram's blocker shoulder and the corner of the post and into the net to cut Milwaukee's lead to 2-1 with 6:02 left in the period. Defenseman Alec Petrovic and Damiani received credit for the assists.
During the celebration, a kind-hearted Damiani in his return after the extended absence, even turned to a defenseman, as if to console his opponent in his trying time. The diminutive center's gesture was not met with the same manner as Admiral defenseman Mitch McLain took exception to the Mississauga, ON, native's kindness and took an unsportsmanlike conduct to immediately send the Stars on to their third power play of the night.
After starting the power play in a very sketchy manner that saw multiple turnovers and a near Grimaldi breakaway goal, the second power play unit got on the ice and immediately capitalized with a Joel L'Esperance goal a little over a minute into the power play, with 4:59 left in the period.
L'Esperance's goal, his team-leading 19th and 7th on the power play, with assists from linemates Tanner Kero and Anthony Louis, gave the Stars new life as they headed to the third period, tied 2-2.
The Admirals regained the lead just 4:50 into the final frame when Jeremy Davies found his own rebound and lifted one past Scheel to give Milwaukee a 3-2 lead on a shot that the Ohio netminder would probably like back.
Damiani, as if he hadn't already announced his presence with authority, re-ignited the Stars midway through the third on the power play when he lit the lamp for his 8th goal and 5th on the power play to knot the game again, now at 3-3.
Texas ended the night 2-for-5 on the power play while giving the penalty kill the night off by not committing an infraction themselves.
The remainder of the period went without a tally or many opportunities for that matter as the teams tied in shots on the period, also at three. Milwaukee outshot the Stars 26-25 for the night.
The overtime went scoreless, but not without plenty of action, as well as chess-like strategy from Stars head coach Neil Graham when Grimaldi was on the ice. Scheel made his 22nd and final save on another Grimaldi breakaway at the horn.
The teams headed to Skills Competition, Ty Dellandrea and Anthony Louis were turned-away by Ingram in the shootout, while the Admirals countered and saw scores from Grimaldi and Cody Glass to give Milwaukee the victory.
Time is running out on the Stars season as they gain a point but see their record go to 18-20-5-5 (46 pts/.479%) to remain in 7th in the seven-team Central Division with 24 games remaining.
With the win, Milwaukee remains one of the hottest teams since the turn of the calendar and improves their record to 27-21-4-2 (60 pts/.556%) to remain in 3rd in the division.
The Stars season-long seven-game road trip comes to an end Saturday as they return to Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL to face the division-leading Chicago Wolves.at 7:00 p.m. Texas returns to the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park to face the Charlotte Checkers Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Caamano (9th straight, day-to-day), Comeau (back/has not played), Lipanov, Merchant, Tufte (to Dallas), Martin, Khudobin
Damiani was playing his first game since February 15th (8 gms).
Tonight's attendance was 3,778