|(Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski / Texas Stars)|
Cedar Park, TX - The Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings affiliate) got two goals from Taro Hirose while Griffins netminder Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 32 shots to lead the way to a 6-2 win over the Texas Stars Friday in front of 6,279 at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
Texas got the scoring started in the first period when Alex Petrovic found his defensive partner Ryan Shea who was left completely alone at the left point and Shea was able to walk right into the circle and fire a rocket past Griffins goalie Nedeljkovic for his fourth goal of the season, giving Texas a 1-0 lead 6:19 into the first period. Matej Blumel was credited with the secondary assist.
The Griffins bounced right back just minutes later when with Texas on the power play, Dallas native Cross Hanas tallied a shorty on a breakaway to level the game at 1-1 with 9:09 left in the first.
Grand Rapids doubled their lead shortly after when with the Griffins on the power play, Elmer Soderblom found the back of the net to make it 2-1 with 5:55 left in the opening period, a lead that the visitors would take to the intermission. Texas outshot the Griffs 13-6 for the period.
Things seemed to turn the Stars way when early in the second period, Texas captain Curtis McKenzie caused a turnover in the offensive zone and immediatey fired one over the left shoulder of Nedeljkovic, finding the twine for the fourteenth time this season with an unassisted goal to level the game at 2-2 just 4:36 into the middle frame.
Texas dominated the second period - as they did the first - especially on the five-on-five but was unable to get back on the scoreboard. Grand Rapids picked up a late goal in the second when Texas turned over the puck in their defensive zone and Hirose, assisted by former Star Joel L'Esperance, beat Khudobin to his glove side with 1:15 left in the middle frame to give the Griffins a 3-2 lead as they headed to the second intermission. Each team finished the period with twelve shots apiece to give the Stars a 25-18 edge through forty minutes.
The Griffs opened up the third period on the power play and wasted no time extending their lead when Hirose added his second goal of the night as he caught Khudobin out of position, beating the netminder to his glove side once again to make it 4-2 Grand Rapids just 34 seconds into the third period.
Grand Rapids finished the night 2-for-3 on the power play. The Stars were a doughnut hole for five on the advantage.
Texas had multiple chances in the third period but Nedeljkovic and the goalposts did their job on anything close Texas tried to amount late. The Stars went empty-net with just over three minutes left in regulation, but just nine seconds after Khudobin left the ice, Albert Johansson found the open net from center ice to extend the Griffs lead to 5-2 with 3:23 left.
Chase Pearson added an additional empty-netter with 2:53 to cap the scoring on the 6-2 victory for Grand Rapids.
The Griffins outshot Texas 11-9 in the third, however, once again the Stars led in shots for the game 34-29.
In net for the Stars Khudobin, who did not have one of his better games, finished with 23 saves on 27 shots while seeing his personal record drop to 13-4-4. Nedeljkovic stopped 35-of-37 to earn the win.
Despite the loss, Texas (24-11-6-2, 56 pts.) still maintains control of the Central Division with a three point lead over Milwaukee who beat Manitoba 3-1 Friday night. With the win Grand Rapids (18-20-2-2, 40 points) remains in sixth.
Texas will have a chance to get right back at it with a chance to gain a split in the finale of the two-game series Saturday night as the teams lace them up for the final time this season. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Back, Karow, Caamano, (scratch)
Rosburg (out for season - upper-body injury)
Today's attendance was 6,279