Tyler Kelleher is starting to gel with his new line.
The Stars’ third line of Kelleher, Sheldon Dries and Colin Markison combined for two goals, six assists, eight points, five shots, and +7, helping the Stars beat the Western Conference-leading Manitoba Moose 6-4 at home Saturday night.
"We tried to keep it simple from the get-go,” Markison said. “Our plan was to get on the forecheck and try to play in their zone as much as possible and it seemed to pay off. The three of us just read well off each other for sure.”
The win moved the Stars past the Stockton Heat for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division.
Mike McKenna saved 26 of the 30 shots he faced in his first game since returning to Texas from the NHL.
Stars head coach Derek Laxdal said after last night’s overtime loss to the Cleveland Monsters that to make a push for the playoffs, the Stars needed to limit their penalties. They killed off two penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game and finished 1-of-4 on the penalty kill and 2-of-5 on the power play.
“We weren’t as disciplined as I would’ve liked tonight,” Laxdal said. “We have to manage our emotions and that was part of the message today. Every game moving forward is a playoff atmosphere and in the playoffs, one mistake can cost you a game so you have to control those emotions.
Kelleher opened the scoring with his second goal early in the opening period. It was his second tally in as many games and second since being acquired by Texas from the Milwaukee Admirals in early February.
He continued his solid night early in the second period by feeding fellow rookie Roope Hintz in front of the net, who slammed home a point-blank shot to give the Stats a 2-0 lead.
“He’s found himself a spot,” Laxdal said. “He caHe’s been a good find for us and hopefully he can continue that scoring. We’re trying to manufacture some more offense and he’s definitely fit in there. He found a way offensively and he’s going to find his way into some spots and opportunities.”
Sheldon Dries scored for the second straight game after he bunny hopped the Manitoba goalie’s stick and tapped in an open goal. Cleveland got one back less than a minute later on the power play, scoring on a one-time shot from the point to cut the lead to two goals.
Andrew O’Brien scored his second goal of the season with a nasty snipe from the blue line to rebuild the Stars’ two-goal lead. But against, the Moose scored quickly, this time with a blue line shot of their own.
Denis Gurianov and Curtis McKenzie added goals in the third period for good measure. Travis Morin picked up his AHL-leading 46th assist on McKenzie’s team-best 24th tally of the year.
Manitoba scored two quick goals late in the third period, but a tripping penalty ends any hopes of a comeback.
“That’s three in four nights for us and last night was a tough loss emotionally, especially this time of year,” Laxdal said. “To beat Manitoba here tonight, I liked the demeanor of our team. We did a good job of focusing on the task in the playoff atmosphere.”
Texas has nearly a week off before returning to the ice at home against the San Antonio Rampage Friday at 7:30 p.m and travel to San Antonio for the first of four straight road games Saturday night.
“At this point in the year, it’s huge having a couple days so your body can recuperate,” Markison said. “We’re going to take advantage of that and heal up some bumps. We have what it takes in that room. We’ve easily skilled and fast enough, we’ve just got to put it together.”