|(Credit: Ross Bonander/Texas Stars)|
With their playoff berth in the bag, Texas let it rip tonight and absolutely crushed the visiting San Jose Barracuda by a 7-2 final score. The Stars scored three power play goals to open the scoring, added a shorthanded tally and threw on three more even-strength tallies.
"You obviously don't necessarily expect it to blow open that big with seven goals," said head coach Neil Graham. "But the guys were diligent for sixty. They stuck to the plan and I'm proud of the way they came to play."
Thomas Harley had a goal and two assists, ending the game plus-4 after being on the ice for all four of the Stars' even and shorthanded goals. Will Butcher had a pair of assists, and Mavrik Bourque, Marian Studenic and Antonio Stranges each had a goal and an assist.
Stranges drew into the lineup along with Keaton Mastrodonato, playing in his first professional game, after injury to Matej Blumel and a one-game suspension to Riley Barber. The combination of opponent, new PP groups and perhaps the confidence of having the berth wrapped up gave Texas a power play outburst. They scored as many on the man advantage tonight as they did in all of March.
"I think the [power play] meeting this morning was really well done in terms of just almost getting back to the foundation. I thought the players did a great job of applying what was taught. They got back into a pretty good formation that wasn't as predictable to the opposition and I think it gained some momentum in the right direction."
Studenic went first in the first period, tipping Will Butcher's point shot on the power play. Mavrik Bourque made it 2-0 on the second PP of the night, waiting out the defender and Aaron Dell for the score.
Curtis McKenzie found Antonio Stranges through a defender on a 2-on-1 to make it 3-0. Stranges now has points in his last three games.
"It was just an unbelievable play by [McKenzie]," said Stranges postgame. "Before the game he kept telling me 'get to the net, get to the net.' I saw an opportunity, and he made an unbelievable pass. "
San Jose would score on a power play of their own to make it 3-1, but it was immaterial to the final result. Riley Tufte was the recipient of a great pass from Thomas Harley below the goal line to score shorthanded, his second SHG of the year. It was 4-1 after 20.
The second period was no kinder to the visitors as the Stars uncorked three more, all within 3:05 of game time in the middle of the period. Rhett Gardner went first as Aaron Dell had a lazy recovery off the rebound from his initial shot. The bad angle shot went in as Dell didn't recover to his post. That would end his night.
With Strauss Mann in net, Texas scored on their first shot against him. Ryan Shea scored on the backhand to make it 6-1. A poor attempted poke check from Mann on Thomas Harley made it 7-1.
San Jose would score one more, again immaterial, goal to make it 7-2.
Elsewhere, Milwaukee had a lead against Laval and lost it. With the win, Texas passes the Ads to regain the top seed in the Central Division by a single point. The Stars are idle until next weekend's final road trip of the season in Tucson.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Olofsson, Murray (callup)
Wedgewood, Karow, Berard (scratch)
Barber (suspension - one game)
Blumel (upper body)
Rosburg (out for season - upper-body injury)
Karlstrom (out for season - knee injury)
Tonight's attendance was 6,356.