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Mueller scores winner as Stars edge Bulldogs in overtime

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The Canadian Press
2/15/2014 11:28:01 PM
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HAMILTON, Ont. -- The Hamilton Bulldogs tempted fate one too many times against the American Hockey League's top power-play unit on Saturday.

The Texas Stars scored two power-play goals in the second period, erasing a two-goal deficit, before eventually winning the game 3-2 in overtime.

"Each time that we've played (the Stars), we've played them physically, especially on their top line," said Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. "We played a really good first period, but the penalties were costly, especially in the end."

Chris Mueller had three points, including the game-winning goal in overtime, while Travis Morin and Curtis McKenzie also scored for the Stars (30-15-6).

Cristopher Nilstorp made 25 saves in the win.

Nick Tarnasky and Louis Leblanc had goals for the Bulldogs (22-22-5), while Dustin Tokarski stopped 45 shots in a losing effort.

Hamilton took an early lead when Tarnasky stole the puck from a Texas defender in the neutral zone and broke in alone on Nilstorp.

The winger kept things simple, launching a rising slap shot from the top of the left circle that trickled between the goaltender's arm and body and slid across the goal line at 4:03 of the first period.

Chances were at a premium as the period wore on, with both teams content to play primarily in the neutral zone. But it was a rare passing play that brought the Bulldogs their second goal of the game at 16:32.

Patrick Holland moved the puck out to Martin St. Pierre on the left wing, as Hamilton broke into the Texas zone with numbers. The Bulldog captain waited as Leblanc caught up to the play, and slid a drop pass to him that Leblanc snapped high and hard, and past Nilstorp at the far post.

A high-sticking penalty to Leblanc at the conclusion of the first period gave the Stars 1:43 to work with a two-man advantage to open the second. They made the most of it almost instantly, scoring to cut their deficit in half just 13 seconds into the period.

Mueller took control of the puck below the goal line and centred it cross-ice to Morin, who chipped a one-time shot over the near shoulder of Tokarski.

St. Pierre singled out his team's lack of discipline as a fatal flaw, especially because Texas entered play with an AHL-leading power-play that's connected on 27.6 per cent of its opportunities.

"I think we shot ourselves in the foot taking a penalty in the last minute of the first period," said St. Pierre. "We knew that (Texas) had a good power play. We have a good penalty kill as well, but we gave them a couple of chances and with the skill that they have, they scored."

Mueller was the creator once again when Texas levelled the game on another power play at 8:21 of the second period.

With McKenzie streaking in along the opposite wing, Mueller threaded a cross-ice pass to him that McKenzie quickly slid back across Tokarski's crease and inside his far post.

Nilstorp had to be sharp to maintain the tied score with four minutes to play in the second, when the Bulldogs pieced together a dangerous rush of their own on the power play.

Gabriel Dumont received a cross-ice pass in space, and released a rising one-time shot that Nilstorp slid across his crease to kick aside.

Controversy struck in the final minute of the game, as a group of Bulldogs attacked a loose puck in Nilstrop's crease and believed that the puck had crossed the goal line. The play was quickly waved off, however, with the official indicating that he had intended to stop play.

Texas secured the extra point in overtime when Scott Glennie won the puck behind the Hamilton net and centred to a wide-open Mueller, who fired a quick slap shot high and past Tokarski at the near post at 1:33 of the overtime period.

Tokarski, who was frustrated with what he thought to be inconsistency from the referees, believed that he had earned a stoppage of play before the final goal was scored.

"If you're going to be bad for the game, be bad on both sides," he said. "(The official) waved a goal off for us with a quick whistle, and then when there should have been a whistle at (our) end, he didn't blow it.

"Who knows who would have won, but I would have liked to have seen a better end to the game than the refs deciding it."

Texas was 2-5 on the power play while Hamilton went 0-5.

Texas Stars (Photo: TSN.ca)

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(Photo: TSN.ca)
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