For nearly 56 minutes, Game 3 of the Admirals opening round series against Texas was all Milwaukee–at least on the scoresheet. A pair of goals by the Admirals top line gave Milwaukee a 2-0 lead late in the hockey game.
However, Texas would rally with a pair of goals in the waning seconds of the third period, before Travis Morin scored the game winner in overtime to complete a 3-2 comeback win.
The Texas rally started with 4:09 left in the third period. On their sixth power play of the game, the Stars efficiently moved the puck before setting up defenseman Philip Larsen in the low slot. Larsen made no mistake cutting Milwaukee’s lead to one. Gabriel Bourque’s holding penalty at 15:14, his lone blemish on a strong night, gave Texas a costly man advantage.
“A lot of our penalties were the result of mistakes and turnovers,” Admirals assistant coach Ian Herbers told Aaron Sims after the game.
Pushing for the equalizer, the Stars dominated the final minutes, but Admirals goaltender Jeremy Smith looked like he was going to deliver a regulation win–at least he did until the oldest player on the ice struck with 21 seconds left. Setup just inside the blueline by Morin, who would pick up his second assist in a three-point night, Stars captain Brad Lukowich’s point shot snipe through traffic beat Smith to tie the game at 2-2.
Overtime saw continued pressure from Texas as Milwaukee struggled to get the puck out their own the end. With 8:44 gone by in the extra session, veteran Admirals forward Andreas Thuresson turned the puck over to defenseman Maxime Fortunus. Fortunus’ point shot was deflected by an undefended Morin for the game winning tally.
Milwaukee took a 2-0 lead with a pair of gritty goals by their top line of Ryan Thang, Chris Mueller and Bourque. The first goal came three and minutes after the opening faceoff, after Stars goaltender Richard Bachman badly misplayed a puck behind his own net, allowing Mueller an empty net to deposit his third goal of the series.
Then skating 4-on-4, Bourque made it 2-0 in the first minute of the third period. On a second rebound chance, Bourque picked up his third goal and seventh point of the series by beating Bachman, who was caught out of position.
“The first period we showed a lot of jump,” Herbers said. “We did not play like a team that spent a long day traveling.”
Despite a late 2-0 lead, Milwaukee only controlled the first period of the game. Texas dominated the second 20 minutes, outshooting Milwaukee 11-1, but the Stars missed out on four power play chances. Texas continued to pressure throughout the third period and overtime, finally overcoming Smith’s superb goaltending.
“We got away from our game plan in the second period,” Herbers said. “Texas really transitioned quickly and we got away from forechecking aggressively (like we did in the first period).”
Smith finished as the hard luck loser, and was just 21 seconds away from his second win of the series. The Admirals netminder finished with 37 saves on 40 shots and deserved to be one of the game’s three stars. After a tough night at home in Game 2, Smith nearly delivered an improbable victory.
Bachman only had to make 21 saves for his second playoff win, including just 10 after the first period.
For the third straight game the team that scored first did not go on to win the hockey game–a bizarre outlying statistic in a series where goals are at a premium.
The Admirals/Stars Game 3 completed a full eight-game playoff slate in the AHL. In the other three Western Conference series, Houston finished off the only 4-game sweep of the first round with a 2-1 win over Peoria, Oklahoma City finally got their first ever playoff win 2-0 over Hamilton and Lake Erie took a 2-1 edge over Manitoba with a 2-1 win. In the Eastern Conference, Connecticut and Portland are tied at 2 games a piece after the Whale’s 3-1 win, Manchester is up 3-1 after a 6-3 dusting of Binghamton, defending Calder Cup champion Hershey held on for a 3-2 win over Charlotte to take a 2-1 series edge, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finally got on the board with a 2-1 win over Norfolk, but still trail the “other” Admirals 2-1 in the series.
To read more on the game, check out Hundred Degree Hockey’s game recap:
I have got to admit, after the completely bizarre weather today in Wisconsin, 100 degrees is starting to sound pretty good.
1) Is Wednesday’s Game 4 a must win for Milwaukee, especially after the back-breaking fashion that the Admirals lost Game 3?
2) If you were watching or listening to the game, did you ever feel safe with Milwaukee’s 2-0 or 2-1 lead, or did the game seem like it did to me, that it was only a matter of time before Texas was going to comeback?
3) What adjustments does Milwaukee need to make for Game 4?
4) Which team will the quick turnaround favor?