Texas Stars Win Second-Longest Game in Franchise History 4-3 to Force Decisive Game 5

Back scores the game-winner (Credit: Andy Nieupski/Texas Stars)

It wasn’t a pretty start for the Stars but a second period surge and a double overtime snipe helped Texas stave off elimination and set up a deciding Game 5 on Sunday following tonight’s 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals. It was the second-longest game in franchise history, surpassing a 2OT Game 6, also against Milwaukee, in 2011 but falling short of Game 3 in 2018 by just a few minutes.

“It was do or die, and it was a critical moment of our season,” said head coach Neil Graham. “The guys responded.”

“We trusted our game,” added Oskar Back, who scored the double OT game-winner. “We know that we can beat any team in this league if we do that.”

Game 5 on Sunday will decide the fate of their season, no matter what.

The first period seemed to be all Ads early. The Stars were out of sorts, including their netminder Matt Murray. It stung them first with a transition play from Michael McCarron. On a change, the center charged hard into the Texas zone and called for a pass from the goal line to blast one past Murray to open the scoring.

Less than two minutes later, Luke Evangelista broke in alone off the pass spanning the entire neutral zone and had all the space in the world to rip one for the 2-0 lead. It was an uncharacteristic goal against for Murray on a shot from distance.

“There was a little bit of nerves early on in our game," said Graham. "It was our first time in an elimination moment, and I think once we settled in, we started playing some pace, started playing a little more free. Then we played a pretty good hockey game, so neutral was obviously key."

The Stars got one back to end the period with Alex Petrovic’s third of the playoffs and second in as many games. He snuck down from the point a bit to beat Askarov high from distance through traffic.

Texas and Milwaukee both played with a physical edge and, for the most part, the officials let them play.

“We anticipated that's how it would play out,” said Graham. “Tight-checking teams are skating through checks and and working hard and that's kind of playoff hockey.”

The Stars had a risky penalty kill late in the first that they handled cleanly.

Milwaukee loaded up the Texas power play, which was 3/17 coming into the game, late in the second period. Curtis McKenzie managed to score from one knee on a tic-tac-toe play that felt reminiscent of the passing plays that the Stars have been generating all season. Barber found Bourque on the left wing side and Bouruqe found McKenzie in the crease. It felt like the mojo was back with a 2-2 score on the board.

Truly it was. Just 24 seconds later, Nick Caamano took the Stars first lead of the game off a paunchy rebound of a Riley Tufte shot. The home fans were electrified. On the very next shift, Ryan Shea had a blistering shot, saved by Askarov, that made it even more clear that the Stars would not be denied tonight.

The Ads made it interesting late with a tying goal with 6:47 left in the third period. After killing a late penalty, Texas would find itself in their first overtime game of the playoffs. It was the third for the Admirals. Milwaukee lost twice against Manitoba in overtime in the previous round.

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

The home side outshot Milwaukee 11-6 in the first overtime, but neither team was able to pierce the goaltenders. Two of Texas’ Rileys had the best chances of the period. Damiani had a tip that Askarov just got to in transition. Barber had a big wind-up shot that hit someone in front, but not Askarov.

Texas brought in pizza, fruit and a few other food items in the first OT intermission to keep the energy up. Back said his slice of choice was a meat lover’s.

The Stars were being outshot 7-1 in the second overtime and killed a massive penalty to Michael Karow with 8:38 remaining. Then of course, in transition, Texas found a way. Marian Studenic carried the puck in and zinged it across the width of the ice to Back on the left wing. He didn’t miss.

“He's a gamer,.” said Graham of Back. “He was a part of that massive penalty kill that we had in overtime, and it was kind of fitting for him to get one in open ice and make a great play.”

The Stars now play a one-game series for the right to play Coachella Valley in the Western Conference Final.  Game 5 puck drop is 7 PM on Sunday.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches and notes
Olofsson, Harley, Wells (callup)
Thomson, Mastrodonato, Blumel, Grushnikov, Berard, Wheatcroft, Arcuri (scratch)
Rosburg (out for season - upper-body injury)
Karlstrom (out for season - knee injury)
Butcher (out for season)

Tonight's attendance was 5,915.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Milwaukee, Game 4 - May 19 2023