HOUSTON, Texas - Brian Finley made 39 saves for his third straight shutout of Houston and fifth against the Aeros overall, and Timofei Shishkanov scored two goals, as Milwaukee defeated Houston 3-0 at Toyota Center for its 11th win in 13 games. Greg Classen also scored for Milwaukee, which scored twice in the third period and went 4-1-0-0 in a five-game, six-day stretch of games against Houston and San Antonio.
Josh Harding, who blanked Milwaukee Friday on 33 saves, stopped 36 shots for the Aeros, who fell to 8-2-1-1 at home this season. Houston’s homestand finishes with two games against Cleveland - Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. and Sunday at 5:05 p.m.
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Finley improved to 16-6-1 against the Aeros in his career, and four of his five shutouts have come over the past two seasons. His shutout sequence versus the Aeros is up to 189:31. Finley last allowed a goal to the Aeros last February 10, when Kirby Law scored in the third period of a 2-1 Admirals overtime win in Milwaukee. No other goalie has more than three career shutouts against Houston.
Finley and Harding are getting to be quite the stingy rivals. The pair has met three times. Finley has the 2-1 overtime win plus tonight’s 3-0 affair, while Harding made 34 saves in a 1-0 blanking of the Admirals last February 5. Seven of the 13 meetings between the teams over the past two seasons have ended with one team getting shut out.
Finley also blanked San Antonio on 28 shots last night and notched his third shutout of the season.
Finley made a great glove save 2:15 in, robbing former Admiral Bryan Lundbohm’s attempted finish of a shorthanded 2-on-1 with Joel Ward.
Seconds later, with the teams 4-on-4, Harding reached far to his left to push a Simon Gamache attempt wide.
Shishkanov’s team-best seventh of the season put Milwaukee up 1-0 with 7:25 gone in the first period. Greg Zanon started the play behind the Admirals cage and got the puck to Rich Peverley streaking up center ice. Peverley fed Shishkanov in the left circle, and the Moscow native ripped a shot high glove side by Harding, the first goal the netminder allowed at home versus the Admirals in 127:25 of play.
The Aeros had another golden shorthanded chance with 7:28 left, when Rem Murray picked off a pass at the blueline and skated in on a clear breakaway. He tried to go five-hole on Finley, who squeezed the puck between his pads.
Houston appeared to get the game-tying goal with 5:41 remaining in the first, but referee Tom Sterns ruled that Law kicked the puck into the net. Thirty seconds later, Finley snared Law’s low right circle attempt with his glove.
The Aeros nearly drew even 5:18 into the second, when a Milwaukee defender chipped the puck on top of his own net, just over Finley’s glove.
Finley stoned former teammate Curtis Murphy’s point-blank shot from the low right circle with 8:15 gone in the middle period.
With Houston on the power play midway through the second, Petr Taticek couldn’t find the handle on a shot from the right doorstep off a cross-crease pass.
Houston’s Erik Westrum, the AHL’s leading scorer, was stopped by Finley with 7:25 on the clock, and then had the rebound chopped off his stick.
Finley continued to amaze the Toyota Center crowd with Houston on the power play and 5:51 showing on the second period clock. Law, in the left circle, drew all the attention and fed a wide-open Murphy in the slot. Murphy didn’t get all of the shot, and Finley followed the curving puck to make the save. On the ensuing faceoff, he kicked out Patrick O’Sullivan’s rocket from the right point.
Seconds later, O’Sullivan one-timed a nifty pass from the right corner to a waiting Voloshenko at the left doorstep, but a spread-out Finley made the save.
Harding matched Finley less than a minute later. He went to his back to stop Shea Weber’s blast from the right circle, which then hit the post and trickled towards the other post. Murphy swooped in and took the puck out of harm’s way.
Houston went on its fifth power play late in the second when Jordin Tootoo left his feet to drive Erik Reitz into the boards in the Admirals offensive zone. Reitz suffered a season-ending elbow injury in a post-buzzer fight with Tootoo last February.
The Aeros got several good chances on the ensuing power play, but Finley was again perfect. After the advantage was over, Houston broke in 4-on-2, but Finley kicked out Andrei Nazarov’s rocket from the left circle. Nazarov made his Aeros debut tonight.
Voloshenko found the back of the net with 13:48 left in regulation, but the whistle had blown a second earlier when Milwaukee captain Zanon went down hard after taking a Murphy slapshot to the head. Zanon stayed on the ice for a minute but skated to the bench under his own power.
Voloshenko found himself open by 15 feet after a nice pass from Law out of the right corner, but Finley ranged back to get a piece of the puck with his shoulder. Aeros rookie defenseman Clayton Stoner came up with the rebound, but he chipped the rebound just inches over the net.
Shishkanov made the Aeros pay for the miss, getting his second of the game and eighth of the season with 10:38 left.
The Admirals finished things off with Classen’s sixth goal - shorthanded - with 7:55 remaining.
Houston finished 0-for-7 the power play, while Milwaukee went 0-for-3.
The Aeros scratched Miroslav Kopriva, Petr Olvecky, Bill Kinkel and Joey Tetarenko.
Houston fell at home for just the second time in the last 20 regular-season games (14-2-1-3), and dropped to 22-4-1-3 in the last 30 at Toyota Center.
Houston is 8-3-0-1 in November, tying last season’s team (8-6-0-1) for the most wins in November in team history. Wednesday is the Aeros’ last November game.
The Aeros are 4-15-2-0 in the last 21 meetings with Milwaukee, including a 2-6-1-0 mark in the last nine contests.
Houston dropped to 12-2-1-1 when allowing three or fewer goals.
Milwaukee was outshot for just the third time in 17 games.
Houston right winger Matt Foy made his season-debut after being assigned Friday from the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.