|(Photo Credit: Tucson Roadrunners)|
Tucson, AZ - Spotted with a four-goal lead the Texas Stars were able to overcome four unanswered Tucson goals as Marian Studenic scored the game-winner with 17 seconds left in overtime to give the Stars a 5-4 victory over the Roadrunners in front of 4,892 at the Tucson Convention Center Arena Saturday night.
A night after staking themselves to a 5-0 lead only to see the Roadrunners hang around and score three goals in the third period before going on to beat Tucson 7-3 Friday, Texas pushed the envelope once more in the Valley of the Sun on Saturday.
Texas mounted a 4-0 lead though two periods only to see the Roadrunners gut it out to score four-straight goals - including another three-spot in the third - before taking the game to overtime to earn the final spot in the Pacific Division playoff scene.
Texas wasted no time in taking early command when Riley Tufte found a loose puck along the left wall before going top-right on Roadrunners goalie Tyler Parks from the left dot just 20 seconds into the game. Forward Nick Caamano was credited with the assist for creating the turnover.
The Stars extended their lead when Friday night's hero Mavrik Bourque took a feed from Curtis McKenzie and buried it past Parks from the slot to make it 2-0 Texas 6:28 into the opening period for his fourth goal in the two-game set.
With time waning in the opening frame, Bourque added his second of the night when parked at the left post, the rookie found a rebound off of a Ryan Shea shot and he flipped it over Parks shoulder with 3:17 left in the first to give the Stars a 3-0 lead that they would take to the first intermission Texas outshot Tucson 15-8 for the opening twenty.
The Stars continued to dominate as they went into the second period and extended their lead to 4-0 when just coming off of their fifth power play of the night and the offense still settled, McKenzie, waiting at the left post, took a centering pass from Antonio Stranges from the top of the left circle and the captain chipped it over Parks 7:45 into the second. While McKenzie's goal was entirely set up by the power play unit, officially it was credited as an even strength tally.
Texas ended the night 0-for-5 on the power play Saturday.
Texas was cruising and appeared to be headed to the break coasting before Tucson got on the board late in the period. With Tucson on the power play in the final minutes of the second, Colin Thiesen one-timed a shot past Stars netminder Remi Poirier for what seemed to be an innocuous goal to cut the lead to 4-1 with 1:21 left in a middle frame that saw the Stars once again outshoot the Roadrunners, this by a 12-7 margin.
Tucson gave themselves hope early in the third when Stars leading scorer Riley Barber was called for a questionable trip, the Roadrunners picked up their second power play goal of the night when Texas, unable to get the puck out of their defensive zone, turned the puck over and Coyotes Royalty Josh Doan fired the puck past Poirier from the left circle to halve the Stars lead at 4-2 just 3:04 into the final period of regulation for his second career AHL goal.
With the officials intent on "balancing" the scoresheet, Texas went on the PK two more times in the first eight minutes of the third, allowing Tucson to post a 12-0 shot advantage before the Stars even got their first shot off almost thirteen minutes into the period.
The Roadrunners finished 2-for-4 on the advantage Saturday.
The Stars seemingly were able to collect themselves despite being on their heels for a majority of the period that saw Tucson outshoot Texas 21-4 and appeared to be on their way to victory until Jean-Sebastien Dea and Cameron Hebig then teamed up to score goals 37 seconds apart with 2:41 and 2:04 left respectively and the game headed to overtime after the Stars allowed three-goals in the third for the second straight night.
Needing only a point in the standings, the Roadrunners punched their ticket to the postseason by forcing the Stars to overtime.
Tucson, with nothing to lose at this point, picked up in the bonus hockey where they left off in the third. The Roadrunners dictated the possession and the pace in the extra frame, firing four shots at Poirier over the first several minutes. When Texas finally gained control of the puck, they used the entire ice surface without gaining much ground on the renewed approach of the Roadrunners.
With the Stars appearing to be content to take the game to a shootout, Texas in the midst of a line change took one last rush at the Tucson net as time wound down and Studenic took an uncontested pass from Shea and ripped a wrister past Parks for the game-winner with just 17 seconds left in OT.
Between the pipes, Poirier turned away 36-of-40 to earn the win that improved his mark to 8-4-2-0 on the season. Parks stopped 27-of-32 in the OTL.
With the victory, Texas closed out the road portion of their regular season schedule with a respectable 19-9-7-1.
Texas (38-18-9-3, 88 pts.) now heads home for the final four games of the regular season maintaining a two-point lead with a game on hand over the Milwaukee Admirals (40-23-4-2, 86 pts.) in the Central Division standings.
Texas returns to the ice when they open a four-game homestand to close out the regular season schedule with a pair against division-rival Manitoba Tuesday and Wednesday at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. Faceoff for both contests are scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Butcher (late scratch)
Blumel (day-to-day - upper-body injury)
Karlstrom (out for season - lower-body injury)
Rosburg (likely out for season - upper-body injury)
With the two points McKenzie (1g, 1a) tallied Saturday, he now has 400 points for his AHL career.
Tonight's attendance was 4,892 (more than the Coyotes)
1. TEX - M. Bourque
2. TEX - C. McKenzie
3. TUC - J. Doan