|(Credit: Ross Bonander/Texas Stars)|
Taking a cue from the team down the road, the Texas Stars and Manitoba Moose were 'all gas, no brakes' in a contest that saw the visiting Moose defeat the Stars 6-5 in overtime in front of 5,197 fans.
The contest should not have even made it to overtime as a controversial call at the end of the second period knocked a sure goal off the scoreboard for Texas and set the stage for the tie game after 60.
With five seconds left in the second, Matej Blümel grabbed the puck and deked into scoring position. He whipped the shot in and scored with 0.7 seconds left on the Jumbotron at center ice. The play went under review and was called no goal, ending the period. The official explanation was that the puck went in after the period was over.
"They reviewed it and on their league iPad, they said time had expired," explained Texas coach Neil Graham after the game. "Our Jumbotron still showed 1.3, which I confirmed on our coach's feeds, so that's where the confusion lies.
"It's just unfortunate that, for whatever reason, they weren't synced because we play to the buzzer. We play to the whistle."
[Ed. Note: 100 Degree Hockey has reached out to the AHL with questions regarding this controversial call and the broader issue of the unsynced clocks. We will publish whatever we are able to learn.]
With the goal washed out, Manitoba scored twice in the final frame and took the contest to OT where they would win late. Oskar Bäck had a standout night despite the loss with his first professional three-point game. Logan Stankoven and Mavrik Bourque had forgettable evenings as they were minus-4 and minus-5, respectively.
The Moose struck first under a minute into the game, a goal that appeared to be covered up by Remi Poirier but squirted free for the 1-0 lead. Texas answered back with a goal from Derrick Pouliot, his first as a Star, from the slot. Curtis McKenzie had the vision to find him open creeping down for the point.
The two teams combined for 35 shots in the first period, a pacey frame that fell only four shots shorts of the combined single period shot record for the Stars (39).
The second period brought goals and the controversy.
Coach Neil Graham switched up the lines to start the second, putting Matej Blümel with Oskar Bäck Fredrik Karlstrom. Curtis McKenzie moved to the Logan Stankoven-Mavrik Bourque line.
"It gave us a good look to add a little bit of heaviness to Bourque and [Stankoven] line. I liked what I saw there and then I liked the pace between the Blümel-Bäck-Karlstrom line."
It immediately paid off. Blümel ripped the puck at Delia, who appeared to have it in his glove but lost it. The puck trickled in for the 2-1 lead. Bäck had power play goal on more of a jab than a shot just a few minutes later and it was 3-1.
"I think he's earned the opportunity to get some looks on the powerplay," said Graham of Bäck. "He's so cerebral. He supports pucks in such a good manner. He's always one play ahead mentally."
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby brought it back within one with a shorthanded goal on a 2-on-1 with McKenzie as the defender. Fredrik Karlstrom had a 2-on-1 of his own just thereafter and went all shot, making it 4-2. He would be in the box a few minutes later and couldn't catch up to Jeff Malott, also serving a coincidental minor with him. It was 4-3 on the shorty.
Nick Caamano made it 5-3 late in the frame and then the aforementioned controversy arrived on Blümel's no-goal goal.
Graham argued vociferously with both referees long past the end of the period. Jordan Samuels-Thomas, the former player turned ref, even went back into the scorer's box during the intermission fan game to review the iPad footage again from above before leaving the ice.
The third period started with a 5-3 score as the call stood. The Moose roared back as they outshot Texas 16-5 in the frame. Ashton Sautner brought things within one as he was unmarked in the high slot and Texas concentrated on a puck battle in the corner. Manitoba won the battle and found Sautner for the 5-4 score.
It was all tied up shortly thereafter with a pass from below the goal line finding Brad Lambert just outside the blue paint and draped with three Stars jerseys.
"We played good all the way," said forward Oskar Bäck, when asked about how to lock down tight games late. "But maybe, maybe keep it a little bit simpler with ten minutes to go and we have the lead."
The contest would go to overtime where Texas would have a golden opportunity with a two-minute power play for cross-checking. The Stars rolled out an aggressive power play featuring four forwards but came up with nothing. Sautner would finish thing for the Moose with a tight-angle goal to make it 6-5.
"When you score five, you should walk away with a win," said Graham. "So we can improve as a team but I think it's also important to take a breath to recognize the good things we did to get the lead [in the second]."
Texas hits the road now as their disjoint early schedule continues. It's a pair of road contests in Iowa next up.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Jacob Murray, Berard (scratch)