|(Photo Credit: Andreea Cardani/SJ Barracuda)|
San Jose, CA - The Texas Stars got two goals apiece from Curtis McKenzie and Riley Tufte while goalie Remi Poirier turned away 32 shots and the Stars never trailed en route to a 6-2 win over the San Jose Barracuda in front of 2,209 Friday night at Tech CU arena.
The first period was a high-tempo evenly matched frame, as opposed to the slow play in Bakersfield Wednesday night. The Stars went on the kill early in the game but set the tone with the PK unit as they got the better looks while shorthanded. San Jose goalie Stauss Mann conversely laid his stake in the claim by committing pure thievery right after the penalty kill.
The teams appeared set to go to the intermission scoreless in a period that saw Texas outshoot the Cuda 13-12, when coming off of another successful penalty kill Texas' Tufte came up with a loose puck in the neutral zone and found Rhett Gardner leading a two-on-one breakaway with McKenzie. Gardner found McKenzie and the Stars captain wristed one past Mann for a huge momentum building goal that gave Texas a 1-0 lead with 18 seconds left in the first period, a lead the Stars would take to the intermission.
The Stars came out like gangbusters to start the second period. Texas controlled the opening of the middle frame by spending the initial two minutes of the period in the offensive zone and 4:30 of the first five minutes of the second, reeling off twelve unanswered shots in the process.
San Jose caught their first break of the period when Gardner was called for interference midway through the period, sending the Barracuda to their third power play of the night. San Jose capitalized on the chance when a Martin Kaut shot deflected off of Danil Gushchin and past Poirier to tie the game up at 1-1 with 9:44 left. Gushchin's "shot" was San Jose's first of the period.
Texas wasted no time getting back on the scoreboard when Nick Caamano was able to keep possession of the puck below the goal line and got a pass away to Gardner walking into the slot and the Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native called glass and banked one off of Tufte's chest and past Mann to make it 2-1 Texas with 7:02 left in the second for Tufte's 13th goal of the season.
The Stars continued to dominate the pace of play the remainder of the period, outshooting San Jose 18-8 for the period, until the Barracuda got a late period goal of their own when Gushchin fired a shot through traffic and despite Poirier thinking he had trapped it in his glove, Jeffrey Viel was able to poke a greasy one past the Stars netminder to knot the game back up at 2-2 with 51 seconds left.
Despite the late second period goal, Texas came out undaunted in the third. In the midst of a mad scramble for the puck, Tanner Kero flung a desperation pass from the left corner that found Riley Barber. Barber tapped it forward to Riley Damiani and the former Rookie of the Year spun and fired the puck through a screen and past Mann to give Texas a 3-2 lead, a lead they would not relinquish, just 45 seconds into the third period.
Texas finally got some breathing room less than four minutes later when Stars blueliner Will Butcher recovered a loose puck in front of Texas' crease and sent a rink-long pass to a streaking Tufte who pulled the puck in and went to his backhand as he five-holed Mann to make it 4-2 just 4:31 into the final period.
San Jose began to rack up the shots as the period wore on. Poirier was challenged multiple times but shook away all challenges in a period that Texas outshot the Barracuda 16-14. The rookie netminder was able to fend off the casual shot as well as making the spectacular save when needed as the game got deeper.
Texas took a commanding lead with 4:34 left in regulation when former Barracuda Scott Reedy, playing in his first game against San Jose since coming over in a trade on March 3rd, fired a shot from a tough angle but rookie Matej Blumel was able to poke past Mann for his nineteenth goal of the season that made it 5-2. Riley Barber was credited with the secondary assist, his second of the night.
Off of the ensuing faceoff, down by three with just over four minutes left in regulation, San Jose went empty net, but the gamble did not pay off for the home team. With just over three minutes left, Marian Studenic recovered a loose puck at the Stars blueline and tipped it up ice to Gardner at the center line. Gardner was fed McKenzie at center-ice and the Stars captain was able to beat his one-on-one and send the puck into the open net to bookend the night's scoring for the final of 6-2.
Gardner finished the night with three assists and a plus-4 rating.
Between the pipes, Poirier stopped 32-of-34 shots to earn the win that improved his record to 5-3-1. Mann stopped 41-of-46 shots, took the loss despite likely deserving a better outcome as this game could have just as easily been 10-2 but for his second period heroics.
With the win, Texas (32-17-7-3, 74 pts.) increased their lead in the Central Division to three points over the Milwaukee Admirals (33-20-3-2, 71 pts.) who lost at home by a matching score of 6-2 to the Chicago Wolves. The Ads have a game in hand on the Stars, but face the second game of a three-games in three-days stretch on Saturday.
Texas closes out their current six-game road trip with the finale of the two-game series with the Barracuda Saturday night at Tech CU Arena. Faceoff is slated for 8:00 p.m. CST.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Laaksonen, Stranges (scratch)
Karlstrom (day-to-day, lower body injury)
Rosburg (likely out for season - upper-body injury)
Tonight's attendance was 2,209
1. TEX - R. Tufte
2. SJ - A. Kniazev
3. SJ - D. Gushchin
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