WINNIPEG – It was a strong start and a fantastic finish for the Manitoba Moose, the problem was the in between.
The Moose settled for a single point in a 7-6 shootout loss to the Texas Stars on Wednesday at MTS Centre. The Moose wasted an early two goal lead as the Stars scored five straight times, only for the Moose to roar back with three unanswered goals in the final 10 minutes to send the game to overtime.
“That was a weird one.” Moose defenceman Brenden Kichton said. “Obviously we’re up 3-1 and give up five unanswered and then come back to score three. And then have a pretty good chance at winning the game but just don’t get it done. I think we need to just tighten up a bit defensively but overall I liked our push back tonight.”
Kichton had a goal and an assist in the shootout loss and it was a three point night for Nic Petan who chipped in with two goals and an assist.
“I thought we should be proud of ourselves.” said Petan. “We were down 6-3. We were also up 3-1 but to come back in the third period we should be proud and obviously we just have to be better in the shootouts.”
In making just his third start of the season and first since January 23, Jussi Olkinuora allowed four goals while making 17 saves before giving way to Eric Comrie in the third period. Comrie stopped 11 of 13 shots in less than 18 minutes of work.
“You learn as the season goes on.” Head Coach Keith McCambridge said. “When I look at the group and where we sit, the fact that we were down in the game 6-3, again to be able to battle back, tie up the game and bring it to a shootout, that’s a real positive.”
JC Lipon and Thomas Raffl had two assists each as the Moose suffered their 14th loss in their last 16 games.
“I think we got to get better at defensive structure so we don’t have to score six goals to get a point.” Patrice Cormier said. “We’re struggling at times during games, pretty obvious, so I think it’s just to get better there but if we can score six, I mean hey why not, right.”
After allowing two late goals the night before it was a quick start for the Moose. Just 69 seconds into the contest Petan snatched up the loose puck and set up Scott Kosmachuk who deposited the one-timer for the early Moose advantage. Raffl also drew an assist on Kosmachuk’s 10th goal of the campaign.
The Moose added to their lead midway through the first period. John Albert sent a backhand in front and found Petan who fired it home for his sixth goal of the season. Cormier had the second assist as the Moose went ahead by a pair.
The Stars chopped the lead in half with 7:21 remaining in the opening period. Derek Hulak pulled the puck from behind the net and tucked it in behind Olkinuora. Brendan Ranford and Jason Dickinson grabbed the assists on his 11th goal of the season. The shots were 7-6 in favour of Texas in the first period.
The Moose regained their two goal lead just five minutes into period number two. Lipon found a pinching Kichton at the faceoff dot and he sent the puck past Maxime Lagace for his fifth goal of the campaign and a 3-1 Moose lead. Jan Kostalek also had a helper for Manitoba.
But once again the Stars pulled back to within one. Olkinuora made the initial save but the rebound deflected right to Esa Lindell who buried the loose puck. Lindell’s ninth of the season was assisted by Ranford and Travis Morin.
Late in the middle frame the Stars pulled even. Olkinuora made a fantastic save but couldn’t cover the puck. It sat right on the goal line and with several Stars players poking away the puck eventually crossed the goal line. Moose players argued the play should have been whistled dead but Dickinson was credited with his 13th goal of the season and it was tied through two periods of play.
Just over two minutes into the final frame Ludwig Bystrom skated into the slot and beat Olkinuora point blank for the Stars go ahead goal. The goal was unassisted and McCambridge had seen enough, pulling Olkinuora as he was replaced by Comrie. Texas had their first lead of the game up 4-3.
Just four minutes later the Moose allowed defenceman Julius Honka to skate right in from the blueline and he danced around Comrie before depositing the backhand for an insurance marker. His 8th of the season made it a two goal Texas advantage.
Just moments later the Moose came close to getting back within one. The puck came to a halt right on the goal line before getting swept away. They reviewed the play but it never crossed the line.
The chances kept coming for the Stars and mid third Curtis McKenzie hit the puck off a Moose stick, off Comrie’s shoulder and into the net to make it 6-3.
Not long after though, Josh Morrissey’s point shot hit a Stars player and deflected into the Stars goal. Kichton and Matt Halischuk had the assists on Morrisssey’s third goal of the season and the Moose trailed by two.
Manitoba inched a little closer with 8:04 to play when Petan from behind the net banked the puck in off a Stars defender. Petan’s second goal of the night and seventh of the season made it a one goal game.
Then with just 2:02 left in regulation Julian Melchiori blasted it from the blueline and it also appeared to hit a Stars player before deflecting past Lagace for the equalizer to send the game to overtime.
There was no scoring in the extra period and Morin and Dickinson both beat Comrie in the shootout for the extra point. Austen Brassard scored for the Moose but neither Chase De Leo or Nic Petan could find the net.
The Moose six game homestand continues on Saturday afternoon against the Chicago Wolves.
WATCH: Moose players discuss their 7-6 shootout loss to the Texas Stars.