Cristopher Nilstorp continues to shine in net for the Texas Stars. Nilstorp stopped 22 shots for his second straight shutout and stopped eight of nine in the shootout as the Texas Stars won their third straight game, 1-0 over the Charlotte Checkers at Cedar Park Center Saturday night.
“It was a good feeling out there today. The whole team played unbelievable,” said Nilstorp. “It was a good win.”
Nilstorp has started all three games in the Stars’ current winning streak. He has a 0.65 goals against average and a .971 save percentage (67 saves on 69 shots) over those three games. He is currently riding a shutout streak of 153:09.
“Nilstorp has been so good. That’s been a big difference,” Desjardins said. “And our penalty killing, too. Those two probably are the biggest difference.”
The Texas penalty kill was 4-4 against the Charlotte power play, which came into the game top ranked in the league. The Stars’ PK is 19 -20 (95.0 percent) over its last four games.
“We’ve done a better job,” said Stars forward Toby Petersen. “We’ve cleaned some things up on the penalty kill and it showed tonight.”
It was Petersen who shootout-winner for the Stars. After 65 minutes of scoreless hockey, the Stars and Checkers headed to the shootout. Jerome Samson scored for the Checkers and Matt Fraser tallied for the Stars in the regulation portion, which goes five rounds in the AHL. It went to the sudden death rounds, and in the ninth round Petersen beat Checkers goalie Dan Ellis with a wrist shot to give Texas the win.
“I went in there with the idea to just shoot it,” said Petersen. “I’ve played with Dan before and he’s a very quick goalie and he has good reflexes. I didn’t want to get too tight on him because I knew he’d probably stone me. So my idea was to shoot and try to find something. I got lucky.”
The Stars improved to 6-6-0-1 on the season. It was their second shootout win of the season over the Checkers, who dropped to 10-3-0-2.
“They’re a good team,” said Petersen. “I don’t know what it is, but we bring our game up. We’ve only played them twice, but we played very well against these guys and we look forward to keep it rolling.”
The Stars outshot the Checkers 10-6 in a scoreless first period. Both teams had their chances. There were a combined five power plays, with Charlotte getting three and Texas two. Fraser hit a post with an open side of the net on the Stars’ first power play. Riley Nash had a breakaway on a Charlotte power play chance, but was turned away by Nilstorp.
There was no scoring in the second. The Stars had the better of the play, outshooting the Checkers 13-3, but they couldn’t get a puck past Ellis.
Charlotte stepped up the pressure in the later part of the third period and ended up with a 10-6 shots advantage. They almost won the game late, but had a shot ring off the post. The Stars had a chance late, but Ellis stopped Antoine Roussel.
Nilstorp came up big in overtime, making a sprawling save to keep it a scoreless game and get the contest to the skills competition.
Notes: Stars lose Eakin; Benn set to return
The Texas Stars lost one player in Saturday night’s game against Charlotte, but they are ready to get another one back for Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma City.
Cody Eakin left the game after the first period after blocking a shot and did not return. Head coach Willie Desjardins said the status of Eakin, who was in a protective boot after the game, is still up in the air.
“You can’t tell right away,” said Desjardins. “He went for x-rays and everything looks OK. We’ll have to see in the next couple of days how everything settles.”
Defenseman Jordie Benn, who has missed the last three games after hitting his head on the boards during a fight, skated with the team Saturday morning and has been cleared to play.
“I think he is ready to go,” said Desjardins. “I think we could have played him tonight. He got clearance tonight to go, but we thought we’d hold him out one more game. It gives him three or four more days. He’s ready to go.”
Scratched: Benn, A. Smith, Vause, Hedden, Robinson