|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
Never, ever leave a hockey game early. Just when you think it's over, it isn't.
Tonight was the prime example. With fans heading for the exits as Manitoba drained an empty netter with 1:53 left in the third period, Texas had other ideas. Mavrik Bourque scored 6-on-5 with just over a minute left, and Will Butcher scored with ten seconds left, 6-on-5 again to tie the game at five. The comeback set the H-E-B Center on fire and took the Stars to overtime, where they won it 6-5 on Jacob Peterson's power play rifle.
"We had that feeling on the bench that [we could tie it up]," said Will Butcher, who had a four-point night. "The guys just battled and hung in there. The grind, the game that we had with the mental fortitude helped us get those two points."
It was an electric night full of wild twists and turns. The Stars dominating the early game in terms of possession and shooting but Manitoba held the upper hand on the scoreboard 1-0 after the first. Texas outshot them 16-4 in the frame.
"There was a lot of good early," said Graham. "We came out flying, carried the pace of play."
The second continued with the Stars driving the pace. Riley Barber broke the dam for Texas on the power play early, and Fredrik Olofsson put the Stars up 2-1 at the halfway mark with a quick snipe to the top corner. An extended penalty kill in the period of the long change meant Texas couldn't get off the ice for 1:44 and it ended up costing them as Leon Gawanke scored on a neat one-timer from the left-wing dot. It was tied at two after two but there was still a long ways to go on the scoreboard before the end.
"We just weren't finding the back of the net and capitalizing on some of those opportunities," noted Butcher. "And they just hung around the whole game."
Things got a little 'squirrely' in the third period in Graham's words and that was certainly an apt word for it. Jerad Rosburg got under the skin of several Moose throughout the game, as did Curtis McKenzie. The teams combined for 17 power play opportunities in the game as their petulance was duly rewarded by the stripes.
Jeff Malott, who got a misconduct in the second for continuing his altercation with Riley Tufte, scored a pair to set the score at 4-2 with five minutes left in the game. With the game seemingly in hand, Evan Polei took a goaltender interference penalty, clipping Matt Murray on a forecheck. He took extreme exception to the call and swung his stick to hit the boards as he went into the box. His backswing struck the linesman, and he was ejected. He should expect significant supplementary discipline from the AHL tomorrow.
That set up the Will Butcher show. On the power play, he notched his first of the year to make it 4-3, sailing one in from the left point. Texas saw its opening and pulled Matt Murray for the extra attacker. They were also killing a penalty after a minor fracas following the goal celebration. Manitoba made quick work of it and set the score at 5-3 with an empty net power play tally.
"I love that our group was able to stay in the fight, earn some opportunities and make good on it," added Graham.
Sensing the night wasn't over, Murray came again to the bench and Texas went 6-on-5. Bourque's second of the year, assisted by Butcher, made it 5-4. With ten seconds left and the net empty again, Butcher got his chance up close off the dish from Peterson.
"Usually I don't find myself in that type of opportunity as a D man," Butcher said, smiling. "It was never that feeling that we were ever out of it. I think that definitely held the guys in there all the way till the end."
Peterson's OT PPG got praise from Graham for finishing a game and executing with the extra man in the OT session.
Texas and Manitoba play again tomorrow in what could be a very messy game.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Poirier, Blumel, Karow, Cecconi, Stranges (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 5,345.