|(Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski / Texas Stars)
Cedar Park, TX - The Texas Stars got two power play goals from Matej Blumel while the rookie also assisted on the game-winner by Tanner Kero in overtime as the Texas Stars rebounded from a two-goal deficit to mount a 5-4 come from behind victory over the division-rival Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild affiliate) in a rare Monday night game at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. The Stars win was their first in overtime since a 6-5 victory over Manitoba November 18th.
Iowa took the game's first lead 8:12 into the opening period when Stars netminder Anton Khudobin made a spectacular save off of a Ryan O’Rourke shot, however the rebound landed right on the stick of Mike O’Leary and the Wild winger put it past Khudobin who couldn't get back to make the save.
Just over two minutes later, the Stars dug themselves into a deeper hole when with Iowa on the power play, Sammy Walker netted the first of his two goals on the night to make it 2-0 Wild with 9:43 left in the first.
Texas clawed back to within one late in the first when Curtis McKenzie recovered a loose puck in the neutral zone and tipped it to Marian Studenic where the speedy Slovak dashed into the offensive zone and five-holed Wild goalie Zane McIntyre for his 14th goal of the season to halve the Iowa lead to 2-1 with 1:56 left in the period.
The good feelings ended relatively quickly when with just 32 seconds left in the first and Iowa on the power play again, Nic Petan found an opening on Khudobin right off of the faceoff, just four seconds into the advantage to make it 3-1 Iowa, taking away any momentum from the Studenic goal.
The teams headed to the intermission with Texas holding an 11-10 shot advantage.
Undaunted, Texas came roaring back in the second and came right out of the gate early when Mavrik Bourque, from below the goal line, chipped one in front of the net where Frederik Karlstrom clanked one off of McIntyre only for the rebound to find its way to Kero, who buried it into the gaping net to make it 3-2 Iowa just 21 seconds into the second period.
"Huge. Huge." Graham said of Kero's goal. "The next goal was critical. It's either 4-1 or 3-2 and it's completely different games, so that was big for our group. Obviously that settled us in."
The teams skated fairly evenly for the next several minutes and Khudobin seemed to get better as the game progressed. Things took a turn for the worse for the Wild when with Texas, on the power play midway through the period, Blumel took an impressive give-and-go pass from Studenic and buried it from the slot to knot the game at 3-3 with 8:42 left in the middle frame. Jacob Peterson was credited with the secondary assist.
Texas' second period magic was not yet done as the Stars on a late power play opportunity, Blumel found the twine for a second time when he fielded a Kero rebound and went top shelf on McIntyre from near the right post to give the Stars their first lead at 4-3 with 3:22 remaining in the middle frame. Defensman Will Butcher was credited with his team-leading twenty-fifth assist of the season.
Texas finished the night 2-for-5 on the power play. Iowa went 2-for-4.
The teams headed to the second intermission with the Stars having outshot the Wild 12-8 for the period, to give them a 22-19 advantage in that department through forty minutes.
It didn't take Iowa long to get back on the board in the third period when Walker netted his second of two goals on the night when he got one past Khudobin 55 seconds into the third period to level the game at 4-4.
The remainder of the third stanza went scoreless with each team getting multiple opportunities in a period that saw Texas outshoot Iowa 8-5, good for a 30-24 edge through regulation as the teams headed to bonus hockey.
Texas having come into the game with a dismal 1-6 record in overtime for the season, wasted no time in getting the clincher as just 30 seconds into OT, Kero took a backdoor pass from Blumel and the Hancock, Michigan native backhanded it past a sprawling McIntyre for the game-winner, sending the 4,457 that braved the icy Central Texas weather home rocking.
"You try to get a little separation, [I] started to go to the net and it just opened up and I just hoped he (Blumel) turned and saw and he made a great play." Kero said of the game-winning goal.
Between the pipes, Khudobin turned away 20-of-24 shots while improving his record to 13-3-4 on the season. McIntyre stopped 26-of-31 shots in the loss.
With the win, Texas (24-9-6-2) clinched the season series with the Wild, sweeping all five matchups with three remaining. Having garnered points in eighteen of their last twenty games, Texas extended their lead to five points over Milwaukee in the Central Division. With the overtime loss, Iowa (21-14-4-3) extended their point-streak to eleven-straight games, keeping the Wild solidly in third of the Central.
"It speaks to the character in our dressing room and there's a lot of hockey coming up," Graham said of the come from behind victory. "To see the way they will kind of share responsibilities with each other, it's the sign of a good team, with the sign of good things to come and I'm proud of the group."
The teams will lace them up again Wednesday night for the finale of the two-game series with the puck drop slated for 7:00 p.m. at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Barber, Gleason, Gardner, Stranges (scratch)
Rosburg (out for season - upper-body injury)
Today's attendance was 4,457
1. TEX - T. Kero
2. TEX - M. Blumel
3. IA - S. Walker