Stars Grab 3-2 Series Lead, Game 6 Sunday at Cedar Park Center
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Chris Mueller scored the game-winning goal at 3:18 of overtime to give the Texas Stars a 3-2 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game 5 on Wednesday night at Van Andel Arena. The Stars now hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinals.
Just like in Game 4, the Stars scored first on the power play. Unlike Wednesday’s game, this goal came in the first period and was followed by another Texas goal. First, Mike Hedden tipped-in a shot from Jyrki Jokipakka at 6:36 for a power play goal. It was Hedden’s fifth goal of the playoffs and it was assisted by Jokipakka and Derek Meech. A mere 59 seconds later it was 2-0 Stars as Curtis McKenzie centered a pass from behind the net and connected with Brendan Ranford for a quick-strike goal and a 2-0 lead. Ranford’s goal was his league-leading seventh of the postseason.
The Griffins fought back in the second period, getting on the board with a power play goal from Mitch Callahan, who tipped-in a Tomas Jurco shot at 11:22 for his for goal of the playoffs. Four minutes later, Xavier Ouellet stepped out of the penalty box and received a long pass for a breakaway that was hindered by Patrik Nemeth. Ouellet was awarded a penalty shot, but his attempt was skillfully denied by Texas goaltender Jack Campbell. With 2:03 left in the frame, Grand Rapids tied the game when Teemu Pulkkinen unleashed a ferocious slap shot from the right circle that beat Campbell.
Campbell continued his strong play throughout the third period, as Grand Rapids out-shot Texas 16-11 in the final frame. With just 1:59 left in regulation, Campbell made a big save on Cory Emmerton, but came up injured and was forced to leave the ice. Cristopher Nilstorp came on in relief and made one save in the final two minutes to usher the contest to overtime.
For the first time in the series 60 minutes was not enough to determine a winner. The two teams traded chances in the opening shifts of the extra session, before Meech and Kevin Henderson combined to find Chris Mueller just inside the right size of the offensive zone. With the defense backing off to defend the two Stars driving the net, Mueller was allowed to skate right toward the net and unleash a blistering slap shot under the blocker of Mrazek and just inside the far left post to win the game 3-2 at 3:18.
Cristopher Nilstorp (4-1) earned his fourth win of the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs by stopping all four shots he faced in 5:17 of relief for Texas. Starter Jack Campbell (2-1) had a magnificent performance, making 34 saves on 36 shots in 58:01 of action, but took a no-decision. Petr Mrazek (5-4) finished with 26 saves on 29 shots and took the loss in goal for Grand Rapids. The Griffins out-shot the Stars 40-29 and went 1-for-4 on the power play; Texas was 1-for-3 with the man-advantage.
Notes: Grand Rapids’ second period penalty shot was the first, for or against, in Texas Stars playoff history. Chris Mueller’s overtime goal improved the Stars’ all-time postseason overtime record to 10-6. The Griffins are now 11-9 all-time in playoff overtime and 5-8 at Van Andel Arena.
The Texas Stars now return home to face the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Sunday, May 18th at 7:00 p.m. at Cedar Park Center. If necessary, Game 7 will be played on Monday, May 19th at 7:30 p.m. Texas Stars’ 2014 Calder Cup playoff ticket packages are on sale now! Reserve your seats for all Calder Cup playoff games at Cedar Park Center at a discounted rate. For more information on Texas Stars season tickets call (512) GO-STARS (467-8277) or visit www.TexasStarsHockey.com.
Photo credit: Mark Newman/Grand Rapids