|Bourque scores the game winner.
(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Good teams find a way to win the games that they are not playing their best. Great players find ways to put their team on their back when the night seems to be tilting away from them.
Tonight was that night for Mavrik Bourque and the Texas Stars.
In a dominant performance, Bourque scored all four of Texas' goals en route to a 4-3 overtime victory against the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins in front of 4,665 fans in Cedar Park.
"It didn't really go the way I wanted to the last road trip," said Bourque postgame. "I shot a lot of pucks yesterday during practice. I was getting pissed at the puck, so I guess it worked."
Bourque's four-goal effort tied a team record for goals in a single game, previously set by Brett Ritchie on April 4, 2014 against Lake Erie. With the night's goals, Bourque now leads all AHL scorers by three points at 36.
"His line drove the offense obviously, had four goals," said head coach Neil Graham. "You can't say enough about that effort from him and massive, massive impact on the win obviously."
Throughout, the game had a disjointed feel for both sides. The Stars seemed to be forcing things and passes weren't connecting. Transition plays out of the defensive zone seemed to stall and come back on Texas with too much frequency.
"You could tell we didn't have our same jump in our legs and our same sharpness in our decision making," said Graham. "Our puck movement was a little slow. We were a little predictable to our opposition... and unfortunately, we had more turnovers in high danger areas than we care to see."
Before many of the fans in attendance had even found their seats, the Griffins were off to a quick start. Texas struggled to get the clear, making two attempts. The second came back on them 2-on-1 where Jonatan Berggren went all shot and opened the 1-0 lead for the visitors 66 seconds in.
The home side found their tonic to those woes on the power play in the second period. It was two copy-paste plays with Derrick Pouliot setting up Logan Stankoven for a right-to-left zip pass to Mavrik Bourque. The AHL's leading scorer teed off on both passes from his rookie linemate, scoring twice.
"That's one of the thing I worked a lot yesterday," said Bourque of his one-timer. "[Stankoven], Pouliot and McDonald gave me a bunch of passes yesterday to practice on it."
The Griffins found their way back to the net in between those goals. Tim Gettinger tipped a point shot from Albert Johansson for the 2-1 lead just two minutes after the first goal.
Grand Rapids scored to regain the lead even faster on the 2-2 tie. William Wallinder ripped one from the hashes just a minute after the Stars' second goal, ending the frame at a 3-2 lead for GR.
The Stars had arguably one of their worst half periods of the season to start the third period as they had no shots on net and could not seem to establish themselves in any meaningful way offensively. Graham got heated after a lengthy defensive zone possession and threw down his clipboard, challenging his players.
"We needed to address a few of our foundational habits," said Graham. "Regardless of score, there's a standard of compete and intensity that we expect. I wasn't seeing that, and I thought it was important to reset us."
Bourque agreed, "We didn't really come out today. In the entire game we didn't really feel like we're playing our best, and I think Neil had to wake us up. And I mean, looks like it worked."
Texas registered their first shot of the period on the next shift. Late in the period, the Stars pulled Poirier with an offensive zone faceoff. Once again, who else could it be? Bourque tipped a point shot from Derrick Pouliot off his skate for the 3-3 tie and a chance at overtime. It was technically a hat trick goal but wasn't called as such in the building at the time, preventing the hats from raining down on the ice.
Bourque would start overtime with Stankoven on his wing. The pairing would not be denied. Bourque skated in down the right wing and sniped one past Sebastian Cossa, celebrating like he'd scored. The ref signaled no goal, and the play went on. "I saw it. I think it went bar down but I don't know."
Texas broke up a 2-on-1 the other way and Bourque tried again. This time it counted, sending hats down onto the ice to celebrate four, instead of three, and a Texas win.
The Stars re-rack tomorrow for their final game before an eight-day break. Mavrik Bourque says he might practice some one-timers in practice tomorrow morning, just for good measure.