CEDAR PARK – If they could, the Texas Stars probably would have declined the penalties in a 5-3 loss to the Stockton Heat.
Texas went 0-for-9 with the man advantage on Saturday and allowed a pair of shorthanded goals against an undisciplined Stockton team.
And Texas didn’t even generate chances when it had the man advantage.
“Just blow it up right now,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “Right now are units aren’t working and our top guys aren’t working right now.”
Most of the power plays where spent chasing down Stockton clearances as Texas looked stagnant and couldn’t hold possession, even when they had a pair of 5-on-3s and then a 6-on-4 with 49.4 seconds remaining.
“There’s just no timing and no execution,” Laxdal said. “We’ve got to shake it up a little bit and see if we can spark it and get back to a basic power play.”
In fact, the power play inefficiency turned part of the chorus of fans who consistently shout “shoot” into boo birds when Texas left the ice without a shot during a 5-on-3 late in the first period.
That capped Stars worst period of the season as they trailed 3-0 after 20 minutes.
Texas consistently turned the puck over, allowed 16 shots, and the aforementioned power play induced a smattering of boos from the 4,350 announced fans at the Cedar Park Center.
Twice the turnovers ended up in the back of the Stars net – one by Julius Honka and one by Esa Lindell – while the penalty kill was a galvanizing moment for Stockton.
Turner Elson scored on a shorthanded breakaway with 1:58 remaining in the period. Sixteen seconds later Texas gifted a 5-on-3 for 84 seconds, but couldn’t contain the offensive zone and didn’t fire a single shot at Kevin Poulin.
Eventually the period came to an end with Texas failing to pull the trigger on the power play, prompting a couple more boos from the crowd.
The third and fourth lines dragged Texas back into the game in the second period.
First with their effort, than with some scoring touch.
Cole Ully, Cory Kane, and Branden Troock were Texas’ best unit during 5-on-5 play Saturday and started grabbing extra ice time, including more offensive zone starts in the middle stanza.
And they rewarded Laxdal’s confidence when Troock broke through with a twisting wrist shot 8:27 into the second period.
The shot was slightly misplayed by Poulin, but it lit a fire for the Stars.
Texas continued to pressure and eventually pulled within one on Gemel Smith’s fourth goal of the season. Smith won a face-off in his defensive zone on the shift, pushing the Stars into transition before the forward eventually shoveled home a rebound.
Troock, who was subbing in for Greg Rallo during an equipment issue on the third line, appropriately had the primary assist.
Cory Kane, another fourth-liner, tied the game in the third period, but Blair Riley restored Stockton’s lead with 5:06 remaining, beating Jack Campbell on a sharp angle shot.
Texas had chances to tie the game and was gifted the 6-on-4 advantage with 49.4 seconds remaining. But the ninth power play ended just like the first eight, and Elson added insult to injury with a shorthanded empty net goal.
Campbell finished with 29 saves on 33 shots in his second start of the season, while Poulin stopped 31 of 34 shots in the victory.