GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Chris Mueller blew a slap shot past Petr Mrazek’s blocker and inside the far post from the right faceoff dot 3:18 into overtime to give the Texas Stars a 3-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday at Van Andel Arena.
As a result, the Griffins are faced with the challenge of winning consecutive games at the Cedar Park Center, where the Stars haven’t lost two straight since Feb. 2-4. While Texas now has a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals, the defending Calder Cup champions have never lost an elimination game under coach Jeff Blashill, going 2-0 when a loss means going home.
Game 6 will face off at 8 p.m. EDT Sunday, while Game 7 would take place Monday at 8:30 p.m., if necessary.
The game perfectly mirrored the series so far, with the Stars going up 2-0, losing their lead then eventually escaping Van Andel Arena with a 3-2 margin.
The Stars built their lead early in the opening period. During a power play, Mike Hedden stood on the doorstep and deflected Jyrki Jokipakka’s shot from the right point past Mrazek at 6:36, before Brendan Ranford slammed home a fat rebound from the slot 59 seconds later for his fifth goal of the series.
Mitch Callahan put Grand Rapids on the board with a power-play goal 11:22 into the second, getting his stick blade on Tomas Jurco’s low shot to redirect the puck over Jack Campbell’s left pad. It marked Jurco’s 21st career playoff point, tying him with Tomas Tatar and Kevin Miller for seventh place on the Griffins’ postseason scoring list.
With 4:44 left before intermission, Xavier Ouellet was awarded a penalty shot after being impeded by Patrik Nemeth during a breakaway, but Campbell got a piece of Ouellet’s wrist shot to keep the Stars ahead by a goal. But not for long.
Teemu Pulkkinen blasted the equalizer past Campbell from the top of the right circle at the 17:57 mark, one-timing Cory Emmerton’s feed for his team-leading 10th point of the playoffs.
The teams combined for 27 shots in the third period, with Grand Rapids holding a 16-11 advantage, but strong goaltending on both sides sent the game to overtime. The Stars, however, were forced to put Cristopher Nilstorp into the game with 1:59 remaining in regulation due to an injury sustained by Campbell.
Mrazek, who surrendered the Stars’ first two goals on the fourth and fifth shots he faced, made 20 consecutive saves before ceding the game-winner to Mueller, the former Griffin. Nilstorp logged just 5:17 between the Stars’ pipes but earned the win by stopping the four shots he faced, including three during overtime.
GAME NOTES: The crowd of 8,057 was the ninth-largest in Griffins playoff history and the fourth-largest for a non-finals game (AHL or IHL). … The winner of this series will face third-seeded Toronto in the Western Conference finals. The Marlies finished off a sweep of the second-seeded Chicago Wolves with a 4-0 victory Friday in Toronto. … In AHL history, 80.8 percent of teams that won Game 5 of a 2-2 best-of-seven series went on to advance. The last team to lose Game 5 and then win Games 6 and 7 was Texas (2010 vs. Hamilton).
THREE STARS: 1. TEX Chris Mueller (game-winning goal); 2. GR Tomas Jurco (assist); 3. GR Teemu Pulkkinen (goal).