If there was any question, Texas Stars goalie Jussi Rynnas made it well known this 4-3 win against the Iowa Wild felt good.
As soon as Radek Faksa won a late face-off into the corner and the buzzer went off Rynnas was exuberant.
He jumped up and down, hugged his teammates and his celebratory yells could be heard from the press box as the Stars ended a franchise-worst eight-game losing streak.
“I don’t know if you saw Jussi after the game there, but I thought we won the Calder Cup again by how excited he was,” Stars forward Curtis McKenzie said.
McKenzie made a big difference in the victory. He was sent down from the Dallas Stars in the morning, caught a flight to Austin and arrived in the late afternoon before scoring the game-winning goal.
The reigning AHL rookie of the year, McKenzie was on two different lines Saturday and both succeeded.
He started the game on the second unit with Justin Dowling and Scott Glennie, where he dished out an assist on Julius Honka’s first-period goal and helped crash the net on Greg Rallo’s power play tally.
Stars coach Derek Laxdal then switched McKenzie back on to the top line before the second period, reuniting him with Travis Morin and Brendan Ranford — his line mates during the run to the Calder Cup.
“(McKenzie) hadn’t been playing great hockey his last four games before getting called up, (he was) just OK,” Laxdal said. “I made the flip-flop during the second period and I though he gained some energy with Ranford and Morin. … Confidence is huge and hopefully this breeds it.”
Morin scored 31 seconds into the second period and the line was received heavy ice time during the second and third periods, including the all-important game-winning goal.
It was a textbook one-timer off the rush. Ranford carried the puck into the zone along the end boards and then feathered a pass across, which Morin intentionally let go by, and McKenzie hammered home.
“It was a pass to me, for sure,” McKenzie said. “I was screaming the whole way down the ice that I wanted it. I think (Morin) may have thought it had been for him, but then last second saw it was coming for me and let it go.”