|(Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Cedar Park, TX - Despite having led at three different points in the game, the Texas Stars were unable to close the deal as their special teams collapsed in a 5-3 loss to the Bakersfield Condors in front of 6,153 at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. The Stars gave up two power play goals as well as a shorthanded goal - for the third straight game - en route to their eighth loss in their last ten games.
Things were looking bright early when just 5:19 into the game when Kyle McDonald took a Riley Damiani feed in the slot and one-timed it past Condors goalie Olivier Rodrigue to make it 1-0 in the opening minutes. McDonald's goal, his eleventh of the season, came on the first shot of the game.
Just over four minutes later, Texas had the chance to really set the tone for the game when they headed to their first power play of the game, but that's where their first let down came about. Just over a minute into the power play, Texas turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and Condors forward Xavier Bourgault went on a breakaway and backhanded one past Stars goalie Matt Murray for the shorthanded goal to level the game at 1-1 with 9:01 left in the first.
Texas re-took the lead on that same power play just 21 seconds later when All-Star Matej Blümel went bar-down from the right circle to bring the crowd back in as they went back up 2-1 with 8:40 left in the opening frame.
Texas' league leading power play unit ended the night 1-for-4 on the advantage.
Late in the frame, with Bakersfield on the power play due to a Logan Stankoven double minor, the Condors evened it back up when Greg McKegg took a beautiful backdoor pass from Cam Dineen in the final seconds of Stankoven's infraction and buried it past Murray to even it back up at 2-2 with 2:20 left in the period.
The teams headed to the first intermission knotted at two, despite Bakersfield having outshot the Stars 14-4.
Texas got right back on top early in the second when up-and-coming defenseman Christian Kyrou buried a shot from the slot just 1:40 into the second, lifting the Stars back in the lead at 3-2, seemingly retaking the momentum as the crowd got back into the game in a frenzy.
As the period wore on, Bakersfield still controlled the pace, outshooting Texas 13-6 over the second in the process. The Condors tied it back up when Max Wanner took a James Hamblin pass and shot it past Murray from the slot to tie the game back up at 3-3with 10:39 left in the middle frame.
The Condors took their first lead of the night with 6:14 left in the period when with Bakersfield on the power play, Seth Griffith took a backdoor pass from Lane Pederson and simply tapped the puck in past Murray to make it 4-3 Condors.
The teams headed to their respective rooms for the second intermission with Bakersfield holding a 27-10 shot advantage after forty.
In the third, Murray stood on his head, staring down three Condor breakaways and despite Texas getting two power plays, the Stars were unable to catch up. Hamblin added an empty-netter with 24 seconds left, and that was ballgame as Bakersfield walked away with the 5-3 victory.
In the cages Murray, on his 26th birthday, stopped 33 of 37 while taking the loss that dropped his record to 9-9-1. Rodrigue made 21 saves on the 24 shots he saw as his record improve to 9-4-4.
With the loss Texas falls to 21-16-2-1 (45 pts.) but remain in second in the Central Division, tied with Grand Rapids. With Milwaukee's twelfth-straight win Friday, they now lead the Stars by fourteen points.
Up next, the teams square off again tomorrow night to close out the series. Faceoff is set for 7:00 P.M. at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
Injuries, scratches and notes
J. Murray (scratch)
Bayreuther (out - ankle)
Berard, Reedy, Caamano (out - upper body)
Wheatcroft (lower body)
Tonight's attendance was 6,153.