WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Petr Taticek finished off a three-point night with the game-winning goal with 3:47 left in regulation, as the Houston Aeros rallied from two goals down for a 3-2 victory over the Manitoba Moose at MTS Centre. Curtis Murphy added a goal and an assist, Erik Westrum also scored and Patrick O’Sullivan set up two goals, including Taticek’s deciding tally. Josh Harding made 23 saves for Houston, which has won six of seven and is 7-1-0-1 in its last nine.
The Aeros are 2-1-0-0 on a four-game road trip that finishes Saturday at 6 p.m. with their first-ever visit to Toronto to face the Marlies. Houston is 14-5-1-1 this season, and the Aeros have come from behind in eight of the 14 victories.
Houston lost its first three games at MTS Centre by a combined 15-5 margin, and won in Winnipeg for the first time since January 30, 2004. The Aeros were 1-6-0-1 in their last eight trips to Manitoba.
Prestin Ryan and Mike Keane scored 12 seconds apart early in the first period and Wade Flaherty stopped 31 shots for Manitoba, which is 1-3-1-1 in its last six.
Ryan, who scored Thursday night, put Manitoba on top at 4:23, with Clayton Stoner in the box for holding. Ryan’s low rocket got by Harding stick side for his second of the season.
Only 12 ticks after that, Keane’s first goal of the season gave the Moose a two-goal edge. Jimmy Roy broke in on a feed from Sven Butenschon, but Harding made the save. Keane, the Manitoba captain, hopped on the rebound and snuck it by Harding.
Seconds later, Harding had to make a spectacular save on Jason Jaffray to keep the deficit at two as the Moose got loose in the Aeros zone again.
Houston’s best chance of the opening period came with less than 30 seconds left, when Murphy picked off a Maxime Fortunus clearing attempt with the Aeros on the power play. He skated into the right circle and fired, but Flaherty made the save and quickly covered up for a whistle.
The Aeros were lucky to survive the first period with no further damage, as they gave Manitoba five power plays.
Houston began the second period on the man advantage, and got within 2-1 on Murphy’s third of the season 41 seconds in. Murphy corralled a O’Sullivan rebound and got it by Flaherty, his former Milwaukee teammate.
Flaherty made a dynamite save two minutes later to keep the Aeros from tying the game. O’Sullivan fed a streaking Kirby Law up the right wing, and Law got past the defense. Flaherty stayed with Law through a pair of moves and kicked the shot wide.
The Aeros kept pressuring, getting the first five shots of the second.
Houston, which outshot Manitoba 14-8 in the second, nearly got even with less than a minute left in the second. Law, in the left circle, saw a cutting Stoner through the right circle, but Stoner didn’t quite get all of the shot, and Flaherty made the save.
The Aeros notched an early goal again to tie it in the third, this time only 27 ticks into the stanza. Murphy threw the puck on net from the right point. Flaherty got a piece of it with his glove, and Westrum carried the puck to the left circle and tried to beat a sprawling Flaherty. The puck was knocked down and came right back to Westrum, who beat a sprawled Flaherty for his 10th goal of the season.
Manitoba appeared poised to reclaim the lead four minutes later with a power play, but good hustle by penalty killers Joel Ward and Bryan Lundbohm caused Moose defenseman Kevin Bieksa to take a hooking penalty.
Harding robbed Jesse Schultz at the midway point of the third period. Schultz, riding a four-game goal streak, wound up a one-timer from the right circle at the end of a Manitoba power play, but Harding stood his ground to make the save.
It was Flaherty’s turn with five minutes remaining, when with Houston on the power play Westrum sent two defenders to their feet and ripped a shot from the mid slot. Flaherty stopped Ward from point-blank range second later.
But Taticek put Houston on top for the first time with the game-winner with 3:47 left in regulation. O’Sullivan skated into the zone with the puck on the left wing, and nearly lost it. However, O’Sullivan recovered, skated between two defenders and wristed a shot on Flaherty. The netminder made the save with his pad, but the puck skidded off a defender’s skate right to Taticek at the right doorstep. With Flaherty on the ground and the defenseman on his knees, Taticek popped the puck into the net for his sixth goal of the season.
Harding helped the score hold up by stopping Roy a minute later from close range. With 1:30 left, Harding somehow snared Craig Darby’s one-timer rocket from low in the right circle, sending Darby to the bench shaking his head.
The Aeros goalie also robbed Nathan Smith with Flaherty on the bench for the extra attacker with 20 seconds remaining. Harding helped Houston improve to 7-0-1-0 this season in games they don’t allow a third-period goal.
Houston went 1-for-6 on the power play, while Manitoba finished 1-for-8.
The Aeros scratched Adam Courchaine, Roman Voloshenko, Mark Rooneem and Andrei Nazarov.
The Aeros are an AHL-best 9-2-1-1 in one-goal games, and 12-2-1-1 in games decided by two goals or less.
Murphy picked up his fourth multiple point game of the season but first since October 21. He has a season-best five-game point streak (1-4=5).
O’Sullivan also has a five-game point streak (3-5=8), tied with Voloshenko for the top run by a rookie this season. O’Sullivan has an assist in four straight games, tied with Erik Reitz for a team season-high.
Westrum’s league-best 30 points are only three shy of his 2004-05 total with Utah, in just 21 games. He played all 80 games while picking up 33 points for the Grizzlies.
The record for fastest two goals versus Houston is nine seconds, set by Martin Gendron and Brent Gretzky for Las Vegas on October 15, 1996.
Three of the four meetings in the season ended with a 3-2 final score, and all four games were decided by one goal.
Harding is 16-4-1 in his last 21 regular-season decisions.
Houston already has half as many come-from-behind wins as it had in the entire 2004-05 season. The Aeros had 16 wins when trailing last season.
Manitoba lost for the first time when scoring first (6-1-0-0).
Murphy’s 118 points with the Aeros are one behind Mark Cullen for 13th place on the team’s all-time list. Cullen scored his second and third NHL goals tonight for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Taticek, obtained on loan from the Florida Panthers last month, has seven points (3-4=7) in his last five games, and was held off the scoresheet just once in that span.
Houston rallied from two goals down for a victory for the second time this season, having also accomplished the feat in a 6-5 shootout win at Omaha October 18.
The Aeros are 11-1-1-1 when allowing one power play goal or fewer.
Houston is 5-1-0-1 in the second night of back-to-back games.
Westrum played in his 300th career AHL game. Murphy played in his 250th AHL contest.