For the second time in less than a week, the Texas Stars battled one of the top teams in the AHL’s Western Conference to a scoreless tie through regulation. The first time (last Saturday vs. Charlotte) they came away with two points, but on Friday night they could only get one.
Defenseman Chris Breen scored eight seconds into overtime to give the Abbotsford Heat a 1-0 victory over the Stars at Cedar Park Center.
After Sven Baertschi put a shot on net, the rebound kicked out to Breen, who scored from the high slot to give the Heat its fourth win in the last five games.
“It was kind of a good bounce for them,” said Texas center Cody Eakin. “We were right there with them the whole game. I am proud of the way we played. We need to work on eliminating some of the penalties, but overall we are starting to play the way we want to. We’re on the right track.”
The Stars got another big game from goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp, who started his fifth straight game and stopped 28 of 29 shots. Nilstorp has allowed two goals or fewer in four of those five starts and has not allowed a goal in regulation in three of his last four starts.
“He’s playing with confidence right now,” said Texas coach Willie Desjardins. “Whenever you play with confidence it certainly makes a difference.”
The Stars penalty kill came up big, going 8-8 on the night. After struggling the early part of the season, the Stars’ PK has not allowed a power play goal in four of the last six games.
“The penalty kill was great,” said Desjardins. “They had the one high tip that hit the cross bar, but other than that we played hard. The penalty kill has taken a step from the start of the year. Hopefully, it will keep doing that.”
Getting a puck past Heat goaltender Danny Taylor was another story. The Stars managed only 18 shots on goal against the Heat, who rank second in the league in goals against average, and they were 0-5 on the power play against Abbotsford’s top ranked penalty kill.
“They pursued it all over the ice. They did a good job on our D. When we got in their end, they moved it D to D and up,” said Desjardins. “They played well. We battled hard, but they probably were half a step ahead of us tonight.”
Abbotsford, which outshot the Stars 7-2 in the first period, had three power play chances, including a five-on-three that carried over into the second.
The Stars killed off the remaining 41 seconds of that five-on-three and then three more Heat power plays in the second period. Nilstorp was particularly sharp on Abbotsford’s final power play of the second, making several nice saves. The Stars had two power play chances in the second, but couldn’t cash in and the game was 0-0 heading to the third period.
The Stars were in penalty trouble again early in the third, taking back-to-back penalties to give the Heat a 17-second five-on-three power play. They killed that off and got two power play chances of their own, but were unable to cash in. They killed off another Abbotsford power play – the Heat’s eighth of the game – to keep it a 0-0 game.
The Stars went on their fifth power play of the night with 3:08 left in the game, but couldn’t take advantage. That set the stage for overtime and Breen’s game-winner.
The Stars wrapped up a four-game homestand with a 2-1-1-0 record. Over the last three games they went 1-1-1-0 against three quality opponents, beating Charlotte 1-0 in a shootout, losing 6-4 to Oklahoma City and then falling to Abbotsford 1-0 in OT. The Stars, who are now 6-7-1-1 on the season, play at San Antonio Sunday, kicking off a stretch of six straight games on the road.
*Cristopher Nilstorp has not allowed a goal in regulation in three of his last four starts.
*The Texas penalty kill was 8-8 Saturday night and is now 31-34 (91.2%) over the last six games.
*The Stars have not scored a goal in two of their last three games and have been shut out in four of their first 15 games this season.
*Excluding the goals awarded for a shootout win, the Stars are averaging 2.00 goals per game this season.
*There were four delay of game penalties for shooting the puck over the glass in Friday’s game, three of them on the Stars. Jamie Oleksiak was guilty twice and Patrik Nemeth once.
Scratched: Labrie, Vause, Hedden