CEDAR PARK — Since the beginning of the season and carrying over into the playoffs, power plays have been a catalyst for the Texas Stars as they reached the Calder Cup Finals for the second time in franchise history.
But in Game 2 against the St. John’s IceCaps on Monday night at Cedar Park Center, the Stars didn’t get that opportunity as the Eastern Conference champions evened up the best-of-seven series with a 2-1 victory.
It was the first time this postseason and just the second time in 94 combined regular-season and playoff games that the Stars didn’t have a power-play opportunity.
St. John’s did take one penalty — a rough against Jordan Hill late in the second period — but it was canceled out by a penalty against Texas defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and led to a four-on-four situation.
Even without the man advantage, Texas still had 50 shots on Michael Hutchinson, who had a stellar bounce-back performance and made several great saves while clinging to a one-goal lead.
The series will resume at St. John’s on Wednesday for Game 3. Games 4 and 5 will also be at the Mile One Centre on the island of Newfoundland. Games 6 and 7, if necessary, will be at Cedar Park Center.
St. John’s got a goal on its first scoring chance of the game after Texas had controlled the first couple of minutes.
Eric O’Dell took a wrist shot that trickled between Cristopher Nilstorp’s legs. Kael Mouillierat easily tapped the puck home, making sure it crossed the line to give St. John’s a 1-0 lead.
After making just 17 saves on 22 chances in the series opener, Hutchinson turned away all 16 Texas shots in the first period Monday. The 24-year-old goalie made two of his biggest saves against the Stars’ top line of Curtis McKenzie, Travis Morin and Brendan Ranford.
Four minutes after Mouillierat’s goal, Hutchinson made a sliding stop to his left on Ranford after an odd-man rush by the Stars. Later in the period, he stopped McKenzie on a point-blank chance after a turnover by the IceCaps at their defensive blue line.
Texas tied the game 29 seconds into the second period when Ranford slammed home a rebound on the right side, but St. John’s responded 44 seconds later.
“We were very up and happy we got the tie and felt like momentum was coming” after Ranford’s goal, Stars forward Kevin Henderson said. “To have a good answering shift like that, it’s not so much deflating, but it definitely hurts.”