|(Credit: Ross Bonander / Texas Stars)|
Looking for a regulation win to clinch their playoff spot, Texas settled for a two-point OT victory off the stick of Riley Barber, finishing off a 4-3 win over the visiting Chicago Wolves in front of a sellout crowd. The OT win, with Chicago chasing, moved the Stars magic number to 1, giving them another chance to clinch to morrow with anything except a regulation loss.
"There's still nine games left, so a lot can happen," said Riley Barber. "It would be awesome to get that done with and out of the way but as soon as soon as you get that magic number, you still gotta compete for that first place. And that's what we want."
Texas is now tied with Milwaukee at the top of the Central by points but holds the tiebreaker on regulation wins. Both Milwaukee and Texas can clinch tomorrow with a Stars point.
In the contest this evening, Texas jumped out to a 3-0 lead after twenty minutes but gave it all back over the ensuing forty to set up overtime.
"They earned a point and came back in a game that we should have done a better job controlling," said head coach Neil Graham. "Obviously, we'll take two points. It's important time of year anytime you get them."
The Stars started hot in the first few minutes, and Marian Studenic cashed in. Off a swift pass from Curtis McKenzie in the corner, he beat Zach Sawchenko glove-side high for the 1-0 score. The Stars killed a penalty successfully in the mid period, outshooting the Wolves 1-0 on the PK despite the man advantage. They turned that into a push that would carry them to two more goals before period's end.
First, Antonio Stranges stepped up for his third of the season. On a similar play, Will Butcher moved the puck from below the goal line to Stranges at the net already in motion. He went glove-side high on Sawchenko from the backhand.
Less than a minute later, Scott Reedy scored his seventh as a Star and fifth in the last three games. It was nearly a copy-paste setup for Texas with Mavrik Bourque on the pass to Reedy. Texas saw something in the Chicago defense on their video prework, according to Coach Graham, that allowed them to "change the shape" of their defense.
Barber expanded, "They're man-on-man in the D zone, so you know [that] if you can win one battle and then beat you guy to the net that [it's] just you and the goalie."
By their own admission, Texas got away from its game in the ensuing forty. While there were bright spots, the things that built the 3-0 lead were not as present as they were in the first twenty. Tuukka Tieksola opened the scoring for Chicago on a nice putback shot. On the PK, Mackenzie MacEachern scored shorthanded after the Texas defense got caught flat footed against the downhill skater.
The Stars headed to the third with a 3-2 lead and even on shots at 19. At 12:45 of the third, Tieksola went again on a one-timer from the pass of Cavan Fitzgerald, and it was a new game.
Riley Barber had a chance to win it in regulation on a quick win back from the right dot, pinging it off the crossbar with authority. It wasn't his time yet, however.
Texas would head to overtime, eliminating the chance to clinch tonight but still giving them a shot at two points. In the end, it was a great three-man scoring play that started with Studenic at the point, found THomas Harley on the left side of the net and finally finished with Barber scoring his 30th of the year. Only five other Texas Stars have reached that plateau in team history. Barber also set the team record for game-winnning goals at eight with the tally.
Texas will re-rack and play again tomorrow at 5 PM against these same Wolves. It will be their last matchup of the season.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Olofsson, Murray (callup)
Damiani, Laaksonen (scratch)
Rosburg (out for season - upper-body injury)
Karlstrom (out for season - knee injury)
Scott Reedy wore #13 tonight for the Stars military appreciation jersey night. The order had already been made when the trade occurred, so there was no #33 in the order. Therefore, Reedy wore Peterson's #13.
Tonight's attendance was 6,778, the team's 9th sellout.