|(Credit: Rockford IceHogs)|
In a series that was expected to be tight all the way, neither team held a lead of more than a single goal until the final minute of the contest when an empty netter secured the 5-3 win for the Stars in Game 1 of their first round playoff matchup in Rockford, Illinois.
Marian Studenic was the goal scorer on that empty netter, his second of the night after previously tying the game up at two in the second period. It was a matchup that saw Texas's transition game shine with the first and fourth goals both coming as the Stars hit the blue line with speed.
Texas went 1/3 on the power play and haltd 2/3 IceHogs power plays. Matt Murray earned his first professional playoff win, stopping 25 of 28, while Arvid Soderblom took the loss, stopping 35 of 39.
Texas drew first blood in the contest with a goal in transition off the speedy skating of Nick Caamano. He dropped the puck to Rhett Gardner who made it 1-0 at 12:34 of the first. As previously mentioned, it was a good example of how Texas wants to score in the playoffs: in transition.
Gardner found himself in the box as the period was closing out. With two seconds left in the frame, Joey Anderson ripped the puck past Matt Murray off a faceoff on the man advantage. Just 1:18 later, across the intermission break, D.J. Busdeker made it a 2-1 lead.
As was so often the case in the regular season series, these teams kept it close. The Oskar Back line, flanked by Marian Studenic and Curtis McKenzie, was one of the best on the night. The captain was heavy on the forecheck late in the second period, pressuring Arvid Soderblom to cough up the puck to Back. The second-year forward found Studenic, who beat Soderblom to tie it at two.
Early in the third period, the IceHogs found twine with a goal from their fourth line. Bobby Lynch claimed the lead for Rockford with a rebound goal off a point shot from Alex Vlasic.
Texas got another chance with the man advantage midway through the third. Antonio Stranges took the business end of a boarding call. Scott Reedy made sure it wasn't in vain, beating Soderblom from the slot high over the glove.
Late in the contest Mavrik Bourque broke in to the zone down the left-wing side and found Nick Caamano, who had skated hard to the blue paint. Caamano scored his first ever playoff goal, the eventual game-winner, with just under four minutes to go.
Murray had to stand tall on a few plays, including a gutsy poke check on Busdeker to keep the lead in tact. Soderblom went to the bench, and Studenic collected his second into the empty net.
The Stars now own a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-five series with Game 2 coming Sunday afternoon in Rockford before shifting to Cedar Park on Wednesday.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Olofsson, Harley, Wells (callup)
Thomson, Mastrodonato, Damiani, Grushnikov, Berard, Wheatcroft, Arcuri (scratch)
Rosburg (out for season - upper-body injury)
Karlstrom (out for season - knee injury)
Tonight's attendance was 4,358.