The Texas Stars kicked off the Willie Desjardins era with back-to-back victories this weekend, winning 2-1 at San Antonio on Saturday and then rallying to defeat the Charlotte Checkers 4-3 in a shootout at Cedar Park Center Sunday evening.
Saturday, at San Antonio: Stars 2, Rampage 1
Cristopher Nilstorp stopped 18 of 19 shots in his American Hockey League debut to lead the Stars to a 2-1 victory over the San Antonio Rampage at the AT&T Center Saturday night.
“I thought Nilstorp played really well. He was the difference for sure tonight, and you need that,” said Texas coach Willie Desjardins, who was making his AHL regular season debut behind the bench. “I thought overall our team was good tonight.”
Nilstorp, signed by Dallas out of the Swedish Elite League over the summer, had several nice saves in the game. The only goal he allowed came with 57 seconds left in the third period, San Antonio on the power play and the Rampage goalie out of the net for an extra attacker.
“It was a good win and the guys did a great job out there,” said Nilstorp. “It was fun to play.”
The Stars, who outshot the Rampage 34-19 on the night, got first period goals from captain Maxime Fortunus and forward Toby Petersen.
“The guys worked hard,” said Fortunus. “We wanted to play with kind of an up-tempo beat and I think that’s what we did. That’s our game plan. We want to be consistent game after game, shift after shift. We have been striving for that since training camp and I think it showed tonight.”
The first period was a solid one for the Stars. Nilstorp turned away ten shots over the first 20 minutes and Fortunus and Petersen beat Rampage goalie Dan Grumet-Morris with shots from distance.
There was no scoring in the second period, but Texas dominated play and outshot the Rampage 12-5. The Stars had four power plays in the second period, but weren’t able to convert.
The third period saw more power play time for the Stars, including a 5:00 one after San Antonio’s Eric Selleck was given a boarding major for a hit on Stars forward Luke Gazdic in the neutral zone. There was 1:31 of five-on-three time as well. The Stars ended up 0-8 on the power play on the night, but it didn’t end up costing them.
“I thought the team played real hard early, we had some good chances in the second. If we score on the power play we win by three, four or five,” said Desjardins. “Power plays are funny. Sometimes you score nothing and sometimes you get great chances. We had great chances and that’s OK.”
Sunday, vs. Charlotte: Stars 4, Checkers 3 (SO)
Cody Eakin scored two goals, including the game-tying goal with 2:42 left in regulation, and Jordie Benn’s scored the shootout-winning goal to lead the Stars to a 4-3 victory over the Charlotte Checkers before 5,072 fans at Cedar Park Center Sunday night.
Cam Barker also scored for Texas and goaltender Jack Campbell made 27 saves in regulation and overtime, and then stopped eight of nine shots in the shootout for the Stars, who overcame a 3-1 third period deficit.
“It was a tough night,” said Texas coach Willie Desjardins. “They’re a good team and they play a similar brand of hockey. Both teams come hard. That’s tough to come back when you’re down 3-1, you don’t come back that often. It was good for us to come back and we had lots of good performances from a lot of guys.”
“There were ups and downs, but we were a relentless group. We just kept working,” said Eakin. “I think Willie said it perfectly in the dressing room, we just didn’t give up and that is going to be our goal the rest of the year.”
Following a scoreless first period, Charlotte opened the scoring at 13:23 of the second period. After a Texas turnover, Charlotte’s Zach Boychuk drove the net and then knocked home the rebound of his own shot.
The Stars drew even at the 17:50 mark when Reilly Smith won a puck battle behind the Charlotte net, and sent the puck to Tomas Vincour, whose centering pass from the corner was put into the net by Eakin.
Charlotte built a 3-1 lead early in the third period, getting power play goals from Bobby Sanguinetti and Riley Nash 1:54 apart.
But the Stars cut the lead to 3-2 with 12:32 remaining when Cam Barker scored off a blast from the point with Texas on a five-on-three power play.
Eakin tied the game by scoring shorthanded with 2:42 left in the third, beating Charlotte goalie Dan Ellis with a snap shot from the left circle.
“(Eakin) played well,” said Desjardins. “It’s one thing to play well when you are fresh, but he did it when he was tired for some of the shifts. He still found a way to get it done.”
There was no scoring in overtime, so the game went to the shootout. In the AHL it is a five-round affair, and that wasn’t enough after only Matt Fraser scored for Texas and Jerome Samson tallied for Charlotte. It wasn’t settled until the ninth round when Jordie Benn pulled Ellis out of position with a fake and slipped the puck into the net to give Texas a 2-1 lead. Campbell then made his eighth save of the shootout, stopping Sanguinetti to secure the win for the Stars.
“During the regular time maybe (Campbell) would like to have a couple back, but he was great in the shootout and the overtime,” said Desjardins. “That’s a money goaltender. They talked about how Grant Fuhr would never let the one by that would beat you, and Campbell did a good job tonight.”
*Forward Tomas Vincour had 14 shots on goal over the first two games, registering nine in Saturday’s game at San Antonio and five more in Sunday’s game against Charlotte.
*Goalie Jack Campbell has stopped 15 of 18 shots in the shootout in his AHL career for a save percentage of .833.
*The Stars outshot their opponents 77-49 over the first two games. They outshot San Antonio 34-19 Saturday and had a 43-30 shots advantage over Charlotte on Sunday.
*Texas was 1-15 on the power play in the first two games and 9-11 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars play at Houston on Friday, host Houston on Saturday and then host Lake Erie on Sunday.
Saturday Texas lineup
Scratches: Sceviour (injured), Sloan, A. Smith, Vause, Labrie, Glennie, Coyle
Sunday Texas lineup:
Scratches: Sceviour (injured), Sloan, A. Smith, Labrie, Glennie, Coyle, Tousignant
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