Stars give up early lead in loss to Grand Rapids Griffins


Stars head coach Derek Laxdal isn't afraid to name names.

Texas gave up four unanswered goals Thursday night and lost 5-2 to the Central-Division leading Grand Rapids Griffins. It was the second straight home loss for the Stars, who won 11 of 13 games at the HEB Center leading up the All-Star break last weekend.

"We had a turnover in the slot by Sam Laberge (in the second period) that ended up in our net and gave them life," Laxdal said. "From that point on, Grand Rapids had a good push and found their legs. (James) Phelan didn't play in the third period because I benched him because he made some mistakes on the goal.

"Some guys aren't rising to the occasion and some guys aren't."

Laxdal was also quick to point out the players that did shine in his eyes. Tony Calderone had a goal and an assist, Robbie Payne is normally a defender but played out of position at forward and Shane Hanna was forced into a hybrid defense/role.

Goalie Landon Bow stopped 28 of the 32 shots he faced. The Stars finished 2-of-3 on the power play, with goals from Michael Mersch and Joel L'Esperance.

"Our power play had been a little dry, but hopefully this is a good thing to come, especially going on the road," Laxdal said.

Calderone got Texas on the board first midway through the first period, but the Griffins leveled things five minutes later.

L'Esperance scored his 24th of the year and briefly took sole possession at the top spot on AHL goalscoring list before Grand Rapids winger Chris Terry tallied in the second period to keep the scoring race level.

The Stars were outshot 23-6 in the second period.

"They did a good job around the net," Laxdal said. "They boxed out and played hard. I thought there could've been a few more calls down the stretch. We had a few good looks and they did a good job defending and their goalie made a few big saves when it counted."

Grand Rapids forward Dominik Shine scored what would be the game-winning goal from close range early in the third period and the Griffins scored an empty-net goal with less than a minute left.

"They did a good job of keeping us out of the (scoring area) tonight," L'Esperance said. "When we get there, we're good. We kind of lost our momentum when we took those penalties in the second and just never got it back."

Texas was on a historic home points streak just before the All-Star break. The Stars won 11 of 13 games and picked up points in 12 straight games, one game off the franchise record set in 2014.

Forwards Denis Gurianov and L'Esperance represented Texas at the All-Star game last weekend in Springfield, Mass. and combined to score three goals and tally four assists.

The Stars hit the road and play their next four games in seven nights, beginning with a game against the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday night. They return to Cedar Park to face the Tucson Roadrunners on Feb. 15.

Texas has just one win in its last 10 road games.

"We've got to play a hard-working game," L'Esperance said. "We've got to go on the road and find a way to win some games. It's coming down to crunch time. We've got to get the points to make the playoffs."

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