|(Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski / Texas Stars)|
Cedar Park, TX - A night after coming back from three goals down in a 5-4 victory, the Texas Stars got five-goals from five players while goalie Matt Murray turned in a 27-save shutout performance as Texas powered past the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators affiliate) 5-0 in front of their second consecutive sold-out crowd of 6,778. This was the third sell out in Texas' last four home games.
Neither team got anything going in the opening period that saw Texas outshoot Milwaukee 10-9. The period was not without it's own highlights as both netminders made significant stops, though each team played close to the vest.
With eight of the last eleven meetings between the two teams settled by one goal, the game seemed to be heading in that direction by the midpoint of the game. Texas struck first with 7:31 left in the second period when a streaking Mavrik Bourque took a give-and-go from Jacob Peterson and Bourque absolutely buried it past Milwaukee goalie Yaroslav Askarov to give the Stars the 1-0 lead. Fredrik Karlstrom was also credited with an assist.
Texas added another goal just 1:42 later when Riley Damiani, returning to the lineup after a two-game absence, lit up Askarov from the right circle after taking a tape-to-tape pass from Ben Gleason to make it 2-0 Texas with 5:39 left in the middle frame. Riley Tufte was awarded the additional assist.
Texas scrambled somewhat the rest of the period that saw Milwaukee outshoot Texas 15-12, but the teams headed to the intermission with the Stars maintaining their 2-0 lead.
"I felt good the whole game" Murray said of his performance. "The second period was a busy one, I thought it was nice to get a couple of goals to go up ahead and then come to the locker room to catch your breath."
Texas regrouped for the third and extended the lead to 3-0 when on the power play, Will Butcher fired a laser from the left point after a well-timed drop pass from Tanner Kero just 6:26 into the third, what would be the dagger in the hearts of Milwaukee's night.
Texas' thirteenth-ranked power play unit went 1-for-4 Sunday night.
With the Stars seemingly in control, the only question remaining would be if Murray could hang on for the shutout. Texas' defense held strong in the third period, as the Stars shut down Milwaukee and outshot the Ads 11-3 for the frame.
Texas made the game a no-doubter with 3:11 left in regulation when Matej Blumel, aided by a solid Riley Barber setup, blasted one past Askarov for his second goal in as many nights to make it 4-0 Texas. Bourque was also credited with an assist to put a cap on his two-point night.
Alex Petrovic added another goal with assists from Ryan Shea and Rhett Gardner with 37 seconds left in the game. Petrovic beat Askarov from the right point to add to his career-high with the eighth goal of his season to send the game to its 5-0 final.
The Stars league-leading penalty kill unit was a perfect 4-for-4 Sunday night and 1-for-6 for the series.
With the shutout, Murray's second of the season, the UMass product improved his record to a sterling 10-5-1. Askarov stopped 28-of-33 while taking the loss.
"I think last night was an amazing show of what we're capable of." Murray said of the weekend's performance. "Being able to battle back and not giving up [Saturday night] and then [it] carrying over to tonight and to just arguably dominate tonight and then wearing them down for 60 minutes, and take control."
Aided by the victory, Texas stays atop of the Central Division at 22-8-4-2 (50 points) while extending their lead to six points over Milwaukee and Rockford at the statistical midpoint of the season.
"I think right now I like having the continuity of our group," Graham said of the team's first-half performance. "I think really whether it's the first line or the fourth line or first or the third D-pair, I think there's an identity that we've formed here as a group."
Texas has a few days off before traveling to Winnipeg to face the Manitoba Moose for a pair on Saturday and Sunday as the Stars play their final two games of the season north of the border. Both games are scheduled for 2:00 p.m. starts.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Karow, Stranges (scratch)
Rosburg (out for season - upper-body injury)
Tonight's attendance was 6,778 (sell-out)
1. TEX - M. Murray
2. TEX - M. Bourque
3. TEX - R. Damiani