|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Sunday's rematch matinee with the Grand Rapids Griffins did not go the Stars way as they fell 4-3 at home. Having played four games in six days, starting with a day game in Chicago, Texas just looked tired in the middle section of the game after coming out strong in the first period.
"We lost our way to start the second," said head coach Neil Graham postgame. "I didn't really like a lot of the things we did in that period. We got away from ourselves."
Fredrik Karlstrom, Curtis McKenzie and Rhett Gardner each had a goal in the contest. Matej Blumel collected an assist on McKenzie's goal to continue his point streak to start his pro career. It now stands at six (5-4=9). Anton Khudobin, who started the game, stopped just 7 of 11 shots and was pulled after the fourth goal against. Matt Murray, who came on in relief, was spotless from there.
"I didn't think [Khudobin] was his sharpest tonight," added Graham. "I didn't love the first two [goals against], and I thought he'd find it a little bit. We have a lot of belief in the goalie, in the player and in the person. I just didn't think he was as sharp as he can be."
Texas struck first on the power play with a vintage goal in tight from Curtis McKenzie in the paint.
"We're playing direct, taking pucks to the net," said McKenzie. "I don't think we're overcomplicating it on ourselves. When I played here in the past, that's also how we've had success."
Dominic Shine answered, also on the power play, five minutes later, and the game was knotted. Rhett Gardner got the Stars' first shorthanded goal of the year on a breakout pass from Riley Tufte to put Texas back ahead 2-1.
The air came out of the thing a bit with Grand Rapids' next goal, Eemil Viro's first of the year off a steal in the Texas zone. The snipe beat Khudobin up high and was a backbreaker.
"We were feeling good," said Graham. "We had momentum and then it goes to two and we just kind of lost our rhythm a little bit. We trudged through the second, and that was trouble."
The second period was where things came apart. In the first five minutes, the Griffs notched two and sent Khudobin to the bench. Matt Murray stopped all ten that he saw in relief but the Stars offense only mounted one additional goal. Karlstrom's third of the season made it 4-3 before the end of the frame, but that would be it.
Graham called Texas the better team in the third and the uptick in energy was indeed palpable. However, the damage had been done. With an empty net, Texas's closest chance was off the crossbar. It was close enough to warrant a review, but it didn't cross the line.
The Stars have four days off before they face division-leading Manitoba in Winnipeg on Friday.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Damiani (injury, day-to-day)
Karow, Stranges (scratch)
Alex Petrovic was suspended for last night's cross checking call in the final frame. Texas is carrying 8 defensemen already and handled the shift with ease, adding Jerad Rosburg to the lineup.
Tonight's attendance was 4,568.