The first-year Texas Stars rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-2 on Wednesday night to win Game 7 of the AHL Western Conference Finals and a berth in the Calder Cup Finals.
The Austin-based Stars won Games 6 and 7 in Hamilton to earn the opportunity to face the defending AHL champion Hershey Bears, the top farm team of the Washington Capitals, beginning on June 3 at Hershey.
The Stars become the first team since the Chicago Wolves and Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2002 to reach the Calder Cup Finals in their first AHL season. In doing so, Texas won a pair of Game 7s on the road – just the fifth time in AHL history that's been accomplished. The Stars, who lost the first two games of this series, also became the 21st AHL team to win a best-of-7 series after dropping the first two games.
The Stars had to dig out of another hole when the Montreal Canadiens' top farm team scored the game's first two goals. David Desharnais put the Bulldogs on the board with nine seconds left in the first period, and Max Pacioretty doubled the lead by tucking his own rebound past goaltender Matt Climie 5 1/2 minutes into the second period.
Texas got one goal back at 14:38 when Ethan Graham took a harmless-looking wrist shot that sailed past goaltender Curtis Sanford's shoulder and into the net. The Stars were outshot 34-11 through two periods but were down only 2-1 -- and they took command in the third period.
Mathieu Beaudoin pulled the Stars even at 9:15 when he beat Sanford from the right circle. Perttu Lindgren redirected a feed from Beaudoin into the net at the 14-minute mark and Jamie Benn scored his AHL-high 14 th of the playoffs with 1:27 remaining.
Climie finished with 41 saves on 43 shots for the Stars, who advanced despite holding a lead for only 24:19 of the 446:11 worth of hockey played during this conference finals series.
Hamilton, which fell to 2-3 all-time in Game 7's, closed its season by losing consecutive home games for the first time since falling to Abbotsford and Texas on Feb. 13 and 16.
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