|(Photo Credit: Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins Hockey)
Grand Rapids, MI - The Texas Stars got bookend goals from Riley Tufte while netminder Anton Khudobin turned away 29-of-30 shots to lead the Stars to a 4-1 victory over the Grand Rapid Griffins (Detroit Red Wings affiliate) in front of 6,542 fans at Van Andel Arena Friday night.
In Texas' first game back since faltering late against the Milwaukee Admirals Tuesday night, the Stars met the challenge and were able to close out another division rival by potting three goals in the final period to secure the win.
Local product Tufte got the scoring stared early for the Stars just 3:50 into the game when he tipped in a shot from the point by blueliner Ben Gleason to give Texas their initial lead at 1-0. Rhett Gardner who set up the play was also credited with an assist.
Texas continued their solid play throughout the period, to the tune of a 15-10 shot advantage for the frame, but a flurry of shots and opportunities came the Griffs' way late in the period and Grand Rapids managed to knot the game up at 1-1 when Kyle Criscuolo five-holed Khudobin from thebright wing wall with 44 seconds remaining in the period. Texas was able to skate away the final few seconds in the first and headed to the intermission with a deep sigh of relief as the damage was kept to a minimum.
Grand Rapids picked up where they left off to start the second, but Texas was able to re-take control of the game midway through the stanza as the teams skated through a scoreless second. Texas outshot the Griffs 12-9 for the period, giving them a 28-19 advantage in that department through 40 minutes.
Texas spent several of the opening minutes of the third on the defensive, having been called for three penalties and spending six of the first eight minutes of the frame on the penalty kill. The Stars penalty kill unit - now ranked second in the conference and third in the league - came away unblemished and in fact got more of the opportunities during that span.
Texas' PK was a perfect 5-for-5 on the job Friday night, while their power play went 0-for-2.
After the dust settled from the opening penalty frenzy, Texas got to work. The Stars re-took the lead when Will Butcher centered a pass that deflected off of Riley Barber's skate and past Griffins' goalie Magnus Hellberg to give the Stars a 2-1 lead with 11:19 remaining. Barber's team-leading eleventh tally was reviewed and confirmed for what would eventually be counted as the game-winning goal. Defenseman Thomas Harley was also credited with a helper for his initial feed.
After a few more anxious moments midway through the third, Texas got some breathing room when Alex Petrovic found a loose puck and no-doubted one from the right point past Hellberg to put the Stars up 3-1 with 5:03 remaining in regulation. Marian Studenic and Oskar Back were credited with the assists. Petrovic's goal, his seventh of the season, added to his career high and vaulted him into third in the AHL in goals among blueliners.
Tufte put the cherry on the pie of this one when he notched Texas' first empty-netter of the season and lit the lamp from center ice with 2:13 left to close out the scoring with his second goal of the night and sixth of the season to close out the 4-1 win.
Khudobin, making his fourth-straight start and fifth-straight appearance, improved to 7-3-1-1 on the season between the pipes for the Texas while a very solid Hellberg stopped 34 of 37 shots to take the loss.
Texas will bring their current six-game, eleven-day, four-city road trip to a close on Saturday night as they clash once again with Griffins at Van Andel Arena for a 6:00 p.m. CST puck drop.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Bourque, Ducharme, Karow (scratch)
Stranges, Rosburg (day-to-day)
Tonight's attendance was 6,542