- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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CEDAR PARK – It took the Texas Stars almost 56 minutes to find some cracks in the Milwaukee Admirals and goaltender Jeremy Smith, and when they did they were able to rally for a 3-2 overtime win in Game 3 of the West Division Semifinals at Cedar Park Center Tuesday night.
Travis Morin’s redirection of a Maxime Fortunus shot at 8:44 of overtime gave the Stars the victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Games 4 and 5 are in Cedar Park.
“I think this series is going to be swings of pressure and it swings a little of pressure into their court, but not much,” said Texas coach Glenn Gulutzan. “These are going to be tight games and it’s going to be like that the whole way through.”
The Stars, who were down 2-0 late in the third period, forced overtime by scoring twice in the final 4:09 of regulation.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” said defenseman Brad Lukowich, who scored the game-tying goal with 20.8 seconds remaining. “We’ve got great coaching. They’ve told us all season, don’t worry about what happens. There’s a process and continue the process – bury your chances and eliminate chances against. Give yourself an opportunity.”
The Stars got an opportunity when they went on their sixth power play of the game with just under five minutes remaining and cashed in to make it a 2-1 game. Ray Sawada sent a pass from behind the goal line to Philip Larsen, who scored from bottom of the right circle with 4:09 remaining.
Then with goalie Richard Bachman pulled for the extra attacker, Brad Lukowich’s shot from the high slot made its way through traffic and by Smith with 20.8 seconds remaining.
“For me it was just get it in front and hope it went in off something,” said Lukowich. “Goalie couldn’t see it. Call it a puck with eyes.”
In overtime, Fortunus picked off a pass at the blue line and sent the puck on net, where Morin redirected it past Smith.
The Stars, who got off to a slow start, outshot Milwaukee 34-11 over the last two periods and overtime.
“[The Admirals] are a really good team and played really well in the first and deserved the lead,” said Gulutzan. “But in the second and third we came on and kept coming on.”
Milwaukee took the lead 3:36 into the game when Bachman got handcuffed by a bad bounce behind his own goal and the puck ended up on the stick of Admirals forward Chris Mueller, who put it into a wide open net.
Texas outshot Milwaukee 11-1 in the second period and had four power play chances, but couldn’t cut into the Milwaukee lead.
Milwaukee extended the lead 34 seconds into the third period. With the two teams playing four-on-four, Gabriel Bourque scored off a scramble in front of Bachman to make it a 2-0 game.
The Stars continued the pressure in the third and finally broke through in the final minutes to force overtime.
Series schedule (Texas leads 2-1)
Game 1 – Milwaukee 5, Texas 2
Game 2 – Texas 3, Milwaukee 1
Game 3 – Texas 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 20 – Milwaukee at Texas, 7:30
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Milwaukee at Texas, 7:30
Game 6 – Mon., Apr. 25 – Texas at Milwaukee, 7:00*
Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 26 – Texas at Milwaukee, 7:00*