|(Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Cedar Park, TX - The Texas Stars appeared to get the game-tying goal from Riley Barber with 5:52 left in regulation only to see it get waved off as the Bakerfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers affiliate) held on for a controversial 3-1 win in front of 6,042 at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park Friday night.
Texas, coming off of a six-game, thirteen-day road trip that saw them go 4-1-1 showed no wear early as they struck first. Frederik Karlstrom, fresh off of a two-game stint with Dallas, got the Stars on the board early in the first when Karlstrom took picture perfect passes from Matej Blumel and Will Butcher and put one past an out of position Condors goalie Calvin Pickard from the right post to make it 1-0 Texas 3:22 into the opening period.
"I think the toughest part coming off of our road trip and travel yesterday, was probably going to be the start. Our guys were prepared, they came out really hard and I could tell they were ready to go from puck drop." said Graham.
The Condors got right back into it shortly afterwards when with Bakersfield on the power play, Ty Tullio found an opening on Stars netminder Matt Murray on a one-timer from the left circle to level the game at 1-1 with 9:37 left in the first.
Bakersfield finished the night 1-for-8 on the power play Friday.
Texas continued to skate well the remainder of the period, but the teams headed to the first intermission with Bakersfield having outshot the Stars 13-10.
Texas headed into the second period having outscored their opponents by 34 goals on the season, there was optimism that the Stars could generate some chances, however Bakersfield flipped the script early in the second when Condors leading-scorer Raphael Lavoie made a spectacular play and lifted a shot over Murray's short-side shoulder just 2:32 into the second to make it 2-1 Bakersfield.
Texas had a chance to knot the game back up late in the second when they had a 5-on-3 for 1:08 but the schedule and travel appeared to finally catch up with them and they were unable to convert either end of the advantage and Bakersfield took their lead into the second intermission having outshot Texas 10-8 for the middle frame.
"Once things didn't go our way we lost our mental edge and that's what's frustrating. We were a very frustrated group and it showed in our play." Graham concluded.
Texas ended the night 0-for-5 on the advantage.
Neither team was able to generate many chances in the third until 7:35 into the stanza and Texas' penalty kill unit on the ice, Marion Studenic went on a breakaway and was pulled down from behind resulting in the Stars first penalty shot of the season. Studenic seemed indecisive on what he wanted to do and Pickard made the stop with his blocker.
Controversy ensued late in the game when with just under six-minutes left and Texas on the power play Barber fired a missile past Pickard from the right circle, seemingly with the game-tying goal to send the near capacity crowd into a frenzy. The fans jubilation was for naught as the officials, with an overly delayed call, waved off the goal and called Texas captain Curtis McKenzie for a cross check on the other side of the ice. Replays showed Condors blueliner Michael Kesselring repeatedly cross-checking both Mavrik Bourque and McKenzie on a loose puck that went uncalled, but then Kesselring with what some called a "World Cup flop", drew the penalty on McKenzie, negating the tying goal as well as the Stars man-advantage with 5:02 left in regulation.
The no-goal seemed to fire up the Stars as well as the crowd, but it was too little too late. With 1:15 left in the third and Texas once again on the power play, the Condors put the nail in the coffin when they caught Murray skating off of the ice as the Texas tried to go empty net. Bakersfield's Alex Peters picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, fed Greg McKegg who skated past a sprawling Murray at the top of the slot and buried it into the open net to ice the game with 1:15 left.
Between the pipes for Texas, Murray had a solid night in his first appearance since returning from a one-game stint in Dallas, stopping 34-of-37 Condor shots. With the loss, the UMass alum saw his record drop to 13-9-5-2 on the season. Pickard saved 26 of the 27 shots he saw in the win.
Despite the loss, Texas (28-13-7-3, 66 pts.) remains atop of the Central Division, maintaining a two-point lead over Milwaukee who was idle Friday night.
"I think it's important that we turn the page quickly. I'm not gonna look for too many excuses here. Let's look internally and let's move forward." Graham said of the disappointing loss.
With a quick turnaround, Texas will get a chance to take revenge on Bakersfield Saturday night at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Karow, Stranges, Caamano (scratch)
Rosburg (likely out for season - upper-body injury)
Tonight's attendance was 6,042
1. BAK - R. Lavoie
2. TEX - F. Karlstrom
3. BAK - C. Pickard