Daniel Carr's overtime winner spoiled a determined effort by the Texas Stars and gave the Central Division-leading Chicago Wolves their sixth straight victory at HEB Center on Friday night.
Carr, the AHL's leading goal and point scorer, wristed a shot from the left faceoff circle past Stars starting goaltender Philippe Desrosiers on a four-on-three power play in overtime to give Chicago the 2-1 victory. Carr became the first player in the AHL to reach 30 goals this season with the game-winner.
Adam Mascherin tallied the lone Stars goal, while Desrosiers made 20 saves on 22 shots.
The Stars fell to 27-23-4-3 with the overtime loss but still gained a point in the Central Division standings. Texas, which won on Wednesday 4-2 against the Milwaukee Admirals, sits in fifth place and two spots behind the Rockford IceHogs for the final playoff spot in the division.
"For what we had, I thought our guys really stepped up," Texas head coach Derek Laxdal said. "Chicago has a very good hockey club and I thought our guys just did a good job hanging with them tonight.
The AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars looked locked in from the first shift of the game and would open the scoring later in the first period on their first power play opportunity of the evening.
Nicholas Caamano's shot from the top of the faceoff circle was deflected by Mascherin, who was standing in front of Chicago starting goaltender Maxime Lagace, and through for the goal.
It was Mascherin's 16th goal of the season and his first tally since Jan. 25, while Caamano and Niklas Hansson recorded their 11th and seventh assists, respectively, of the season on the marker.
"As a first-year pro, there's a lot of ups and downs. I just tried to go back to the basics and head straight to the net," Mascherin said. "I just put my stick out, and it hit my stick and trickled in."
Texas held strong on the other end of the ice in the first frame, killing off a James Phelan minor penalty shortly after Mascherin's go-ahead goal. Desrosiers made six stops on as many Chicago shots in the first 20 minutes.
The second period went scoreless but was eventful nonetheless. Each team's netminders came up big, with Desrosiers making a sliding left-pad stop on a wrap-around try by Chicago, followed quickly by Lagace absorbing a rebound attempt from Stars winger Erik Condra.
"I thought Phil [Desrosiers] was outstanding," Laxdal said. "I thought he gave us a chance to win the game all night long."
While each team traded tough penalty kills, the game became increasingly chippy, and Stars forward Robbie Payne dropped the gloves with Wolves center Stefan Matteau near the end of the middle frame.
In the third period, despite a valiant effort by a Stars team with a lack of forward depth (top scorers Joel L'Esperance, Denis Gurianov, and Roope Hintz are all on the Dallas Stars' active roster), the Wolves would finally strike.
Chicago defenseman Nic Hague inadvertently centered the puck off of Stars blueliner Gavin Bayreuther and to teammate Keegan Kolesar, who wired a point-blank shot past Desrosiers to level the contest at 1-1.
"They got a lucky bounce when it hit Gavin right in the chin, so he couldn't flex out on [Kolesar]," Laxdal says. "That happens, but you just have to take it and move on."
In overtime, Caamano hooked onto a rushing Wolves forward and took a sit in the penalty box, which led to Carr's game-winning power-play goal.
Rather than holding onto the negatives of the performance, which was just Texas' third loss in 22 games when leading after two periods, Laxdal is taking positives out of an otherwise disappointing result.
"We held one of the best team's in the league to 21 shots. They're a very highly-offensive team and our guys did a good job of eliminating their chances," he said. "That's the way we have to play."
Tonight's game was the first of 15 March games on the Texas schedule, all of which are against divisional opponents. The Stars return to the ice on Saturday night when they host the Wolves for the second half of their back-to-back at 7 p.m. at HEB Center.
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