Official Box Score HOUSTON, Texas – Rookie sensation Patrick O’Sullivan netted his team record third hat trick – giving him 20 goals in the last 21 games – and added and an assist, AHL leading scorer Kirby Law supplied three assists and Roman Voloshenko and Matt Foy scored in the final two rounds of the shootout, as the Houston Aeros outlasted the Chicago Wolves 5-4 at Toyota Center.
Josh Harding made 28 saves for the Aeros (43-16-1-2), who increased their lead over second-place Milwaukee to four points. Houston also has two games in hand on the Admirals, who lost 4-0 at home to Peoria tonight. The Aeros’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 11 points, a combination of points gained by Houston and points lost by Iowa. Houston earned its 19th come-from-behind win out of 43 victories.
The Aeros are at home against Chicago again on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. Click here
to buy tickets. Houston has won three straight against the Wolves for the first time since February 10-March 3, 2001.
Kip Miller scored twice less than three minutes apart in the first period, Kevin Doell and Ramzi Abid added a power play goal apiece in the third period for Chicago. Tuomas Tarkki made 19 saves for the sixth-place Wolves, who had their three-game winning streak snapped and remained four points behind Omaha for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division. The Knights also fell in a shootout, 4-3 to Rochester tonight.
O’Sullivan scored 48 seconds into the first period and had a hand in all three goals in the second, including a momentum-gaining tally with .7 seconds showing on the clock. He has 39 goals this season – the second most in a single season by any Aero, trailing only Jeff Christian’s 45 goals in 1998-99. O’Sullivan has 65 points (36-29=65) in his last 46 games, has 18 points (11-7=18) in the last 11 games and 20 goals in the last 21 games. O’Sullivan also tied Mark Cullen and current Aero Voloshenko’s team record with four points in a single game.
Law, meanwhile, increased his lead in the AHL scoring race. He now has 88 points (34-54=88), two ahead of Westrum (30-56=86). Westrum leads Law by two in the assist race. O’Sullivan, meanwhile, moved into fifth place in overall scoring with 72 points (39-33=72). Law now has the third-highest point total in a single season by an Aero, while Westrum is tied for third. Brian Wiseman notched each a 109- and 98-point season, while Westrum is tied with Christian at 86 points.
O’Sullivan took only 48 seconds to get Houston on the board. Petr Taticek chipped the puck into the corner from center ice. Law dug it out to O’Sullivan, inside the left circle. O’Sullivan one-timed the puck by Tarkki for his team-leading 37th goal of the season.
Harding stopped Jimmy Sharrow’s shot from the left point, and then had to cover up Justin Morrison’s point-blank rebound attempt, 4:23 into the game.
Miller’s wraparound by a surprised Harding, his 12th goal of the season, got Chicago even at 7:16 of the first.
The Wolves went ahead for the first time just after the period’s midway point, at 10:33. Former Aero Travis Roche, in the left circle in transition, fed Miller in the mid slot, and the veteran centerman beat Harding for his 13th goal.
Aeros defenseman Curtis Murphy had a wide-open chance in front of the net on the power play with 7:15 left, but he fired the puck high and wide.
Foy just pushed an awkward backhanded feed from O’Sullivan wide of the net as a Wolves’ power play expired early in the second.
O’Sullivan netted his second of the season and 38th of the season at 5:04 of the second, evening things up at 2-2. Harding set the puck up for Scott Ferguson behind the net. With the Wolves applying serious pressure, Ferguson was forced to bang the puck hard off the center ice boards. O’Sullivan cleanly won the race to the puck behind the net. He skated out between the circles and backhanded a soft shot low under Tarkki’s pads.
A minute later, O’Sullivan ripped a clear breakaway wide of the net in his bid for his third hat trick.
But O’Sullivan set up Westrum’s go-ahead, power-play goal, at 9:29 of the second. O’Sullivan fed Law, in the left corner, Law chipped the puck to Westrum inside the right circle, and he ripped a one-timer under Tarkki for his 30th goal of the season.
O’Sullivan scored with .7 seconds left on the second-period clock, as Law fed him from behind the net. O’Sullivan double clutched, then ripped a shot by Tarkki to complete the hat trick with his 39th of the season.
Chicago’s Colin Stuart had a shorthanded breakaway early in the third, but Harding stacked the pads to make the save.
The Wolves got a five-minute power play at 5:54 of the third period when Ryan Stokes high-sticked Chicago captain Derek MacKenzie.
Doell capitalized on the advantage, deflecting Roche’s point blast by Harding for his 13th goal of the season, 7:46 into the final frame. Seconds later, Roche’s rocket from the left circle hit the near post and clanked into the protective netting.
Chicago got a 4-on-3 power play with 6:27 left in regulation, and Abid tallied his team-leading 28th goal to tie things up after a hooking penalty to Murphy. Untouched at the left doorstep, Abid touched the puck by Harding on a nice cross-crease feed from Miller.
Chicago’s Karl Stewart picked up a slashing minor with 4:59 left, giving Houston a power play. The Aeros didn’t get a shot, and iced the puck near the end of the advantage.
But Houston went right back on the power play one second after the first one expired, after Mark Popovic cross-checked Peter Olvecky behind the net. Tarkki scooped O’Sullivan’s bouncing shot early.
Harding saved the Aeros in the opening 20 seconds of overtime. Erik Reitz threw a blind clearing attempt from behind the net, and Popovic unleashed a one-timer from the left circle. But Harding swallowed the puck. He also made two diving saves while out of position two minutes into the extra session.
Harding got his biggest save of the night with 90 seconds left, stacking the pads again and robbing Miller, the 449-game NHL veteran, on a clear breakaway.
Chicago finished overtime with a 6-2 shot advantage.
Doell led off for Chicago in the shootout, and Harding somehow made the save despite being beat five-hole. Westrum countered for Houston, but Tarkki stayed with the deke and made the save.
Morrison went in round two for the Wolves, but Harding did the splits to cover the right post. O’Sullivan, the star rookie, skated to center to shoot, but Tarkki kicked out the attempt with his right pad.
Defenseman Nick Naumenko was Chicago’s third shooter, and he went top shelf glove side over Harding. Tarkki pokechecked Law’s attempt away on the other end.
Blueliner Bob Nardella, just back from playing for host Italy in the Olympics, had his attempt gloved aside by Harding. Voloshenko hit every part of the post and then the net to tie things up in the fourth round.
Harding gloved aside an attempt by Roche, a Calder Cup champion with Houston in 2003, and Foy went five-hole on Tarkki for the clincher.
Houston finished 1-for-7 on the power play, while Chicago went 2-for-6.
The Aeros improved to 19-5-1-2 in one-goal games, while Chicago fell 9-6-3-7. Notes: Not dressing for the Aeros were Colin Peters, Bill Kinkel and Andrei Nazarov. Houston improved to 41-4-0-1 when scoring three goals or more. Houston has trailed after one period in back-to-back games for the first time since November 17-18. Twelve of the last 17 regular-season meetings between the teams have been decided by one goal or finished in a tie.