CEDAR PARK — Special teams gave the Rockford IceHogs the final advantage, but the Texas Stars were outplayed for 60 minutes in a 6-3 American Hockey League loss late Saturday night.
“If you go back and reflect on the game, they outplayed us from start to finish,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “When you really look at it, I don’t think we deserved to win tonight.”
Despite getting outshot 41-26, Texas actually led 3-2 after the second period.
That’s when Rockford — which lost one of its top defensemen, Klas Dahlbeck, right before the game as he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes — surged to victory on the strength of a power-play goal and a momentum-building penalty kill.
Garret Ross tied the game during a five-on-three power play 8 minutes, 50 seconds into the third period. Ross’ shot came on the third rebound of an initial chance by Mark McNeill, eventually slipping past Stars goalie Jack Campbell.
Texas was given a chance to counter when Kirill Gotovets was called for tripping with 9:11 remaining.
On the power play, Texas was limited to a pair of shots, and Rockford’s bench was galvanized after Dennis Rasmussen sacrificed his body to block a point shot and IceHogs goalie Antti Raanta made an elbow save on Jamie Oleksiak.
On the first shift after the penalty kill, Phillip Danault scored the deciding goal when his shot hit a body in front of the net and slid past Campbell.
Less than two minutes later, Danault picked up the fourth rebound on a chance and pushed Rockford’s lead to 5-3. Danault added an empty net goal with 1:18 remaining to complete the natural hat trick.
It was Texas’ seventh loss this season when leading after the second period.
“We’re up by one going into the third period, at home, against a team that we’re chasing,” forward Kevin Henderson said. “We’ve got to find a way to close it out. I had a good chance; (Derek) Meech had a good chance. Maybe we score those, it’s a different game. But either way, this is a team we need to catch going into the playoffs.”
The weekend sweep helped Rockford solidify itself as the fourth-place team in the Western Conference with 70 points. The Stars, now at 63 points, had entered the weekend with an opportunity to catch the IceHogs in the standings with back-to-back wins.
In the second period, it looked as if Texas would secure the victory.
Even though Rockford had a 12-6 edge in shots, the Stars scored a trio of goals in the middle stanza and took the lead.
Justin Dowling scored on a power play, canceling out a 1-0 Rockford lead after McNeill scored on the short side.
Rockford went up 2-1 when Peter Regin scored on the power play, but Henderson and Travis Morin scored on back-to-back shots.