CEDAR PARK, Texas -- The Texas Stars were less than five seconds away from taking a 3-2 series lead in the West Division semifinals Friday night at Cedar Park Center, but they’ll head back to Milwaukee one game way from elimination. The Milwaukee Admirals scored with 4.4 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the score, then won it 2-1 with 3:31 remaining in overtime to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
“We played pretty well. They got a late goal and shifted momentum,” defenseman Matt Stephenson said. “I felt we had some chances in overtime, but they had more puck possession and time in our zone. Anytime you spend too much time in your own zone bad things happen.”
The Stars scored on the power play midway through the first period and held that lead until the final seconds. But with Milwaukee goaltender Jeremy Smith out for the extra attacker, the Admirals were able to get the puck deep in the Texas zone one last time and Chris Mueller centered the puck from behind the net and Gabriel Bourque chipped it over the shoulder of Stars goaltender Richard Bachman with 4.4 seconds remaining.
In overtime, Milwaukee’s Ryan Thang scored off the rush, streaking down the left wing and scoring off a blast from the left faceoff circle with 3:31 left in the extra period.
The Stars, who lost two of the three straight games in Cedar Park, will now have to win two in a row in Milwaukee to overcome the 3-2 deficit and win the series.
“We can’t do anything about it now. All we can do now is look to the next game,” said Stephenson. “Some of us have been in this position before. Last year we were down 3-2 going back to Hamilton and we took two in their barn. We are going to try to use that and bring that to the table.”
After killing off Milwaukee’s first power play of the game, the Stars got their first chance of the game with the man advantage and cashed in to take a 1-0 lead. Defenseman Dan Spang’s shot was redirected on net by Philip Larsen and Raymond Sawada then put the puck past Smith at the 10:20 mark of the first period.
The Admirals had a total of 5:41 of power play time in the second period, but the Stars penalty kill and Bachman, who made some sharp saves, came up big to keep Milwaukee off the scoreboard and keep it a 1-0 game going into the third period.
*Richard Bachman stopped 36 of 38 shots for the Stars in the game. Milwaukee goalie Jeremy Smith stopped 40 of 41.
*Milwaukee’s Gabriel Bourque and Chris Mueller have combined for 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in the first five games of the series. Bourque has five goals and four assists and Mueller has three goals and five assists.
*As regulation ended Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon and Milwaukee forward Kelsey Wilson dropped the gloves in a spirited fight, which was followed a by a big scrum on the ice as the two teams were skating off the ice and heading to their respective locker rooms.
*Attendance at Cedar Park Center was 6,126.
*The Idaho Steelheads, the ECHL affiliate of the Texas Stars and Dallas Stars, was eliminated from the playoffs Friday night. Idaho lost 4-0 Alaska, which swept the Western Conference Semifinals in four games.
Series schedule (Milwaukee leads 3-2)
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 3, Texas 2
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Milwaukee 2, Texas 1 (OT)
Game 6 – Mon., Apr. 25 – Texas at Milwaukee, 7:00
Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 26 – Texas at Milwaukee, 7:00*