Phil Varone’s second goal of the game 48 seconds into overtime broke a 4-4 tie and lifted the Rochester Americans to a thrilling 5-4 overtime win over the visiting Texas Stars Sunday afternoon at The Blue Cross Arena. With the win, Rochester closes out its first three-in-three weekend of the season with four out of six points and improves to 25-18-3-3.
Facing a 3-0 deficit after the first period, the Amerks played the role of comeback kids, scoring three times in the second and again rallying from being down 4-3 in the third to push the contest beyond regulation.
Johan Larsson, Colton Gillies and Dan Catenacci also scored for the Amerks, while Joel Armia added two assists. Goaltender Nathan Lieuwen got the call in net and made 22 saves to earn his sixth win in seven starts for Rochester, which earned its first win over Texas since Feb. 10, 2012.
Cameron Gaunce, Matej Stransky, Colton Sceviour and Taylor Peters scored for the interconference rival Stars, and Josh Robinson stopped 28 shots in net.
The Stars took control of the game very early on, scoring their first goal just 29 seconds after the opening face-off when Gaunce’s slap-shot from the point squeaked through multiple screens in front of the net and past Lieuwen for a 1-0 lead.
Texas added to its lead just under seven minutes later on a quick shot from the left circle off of the stick of Stransky. The Stars gained a three-goal lead when Sceviour potted his league-leading 30th goal of the year on a nice individual effort with 4:31 remaining in the first period. The goal was reviewed to determine whether the net was off its moorings prior to the puck crossing the line, but the play was eventually upheld and cushioned the advantage to 3-0 in favor of the visitors.
In desperate need of a spark, the Amerks got one from the reunited pairing of Luke Adam and Varone, who delivered on a nice give-and-go passing play to put Rochester on the board 2:24 into the second period. As Varone entered the Texas zone, he dropped a pass to Adam and broke to the middle of the ice. Adam flipped a pass back to Varone, who snapped a low shot past Robinson to ignite the comeback.
Minutes later, the Stars took consecutive penalties to put the Amerks on their second five-on-three man-advantage of the game and Rochester would capitalize. Just after the initial penalty had expired, Rochester converted on another quick passing play as Larsson cut to the net and received the puck from Kevin Porter. Larsson made no mistake, firing a shot over Robinson’s glove for his eighth goal of the year and 19th point in 15 games since his reassignment from the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 11.
The Amerks wasted no time tying the score, as Catenacci accepted a pass from Gillies inside the offensive zone, fought off a check and slipped a shot through Robinson’s five-hole to knot the score at 3-3.
Texas, however, would soon regain the one-goal lead with 4:57 left in the middle frame when Stransky picked up a loose puck following a big hit along the boards from Amerks captain Drew Bagnall and mailed a pass to Peters, who tapped the puck into the empty side.
Rochester tied the score once again just three minutes into the third period, when Gillies used his long reach to avoid a stick-check and threw a pass into the slot that took a fortunate bounce into the Texas net, squaring the game at four goals apiece.
The teams traded penalties in the final 10 minutes of regulation, but neither club could break the 4-4 tie. Just 48 seconds into the overtime session, the Amerks caught Texas in the middle of an ill-advised line-change and took advantage. Seeing a wide-open right side of the ice, Rasmus Ristolainen broke up the right wing and dropped a pass to a trailing Bagnall. With Varone streaking to the net, Bagnall delivered a strike right on the tape and Varone tapped home the game-winning goal into the gaping net to secure the 5-4 victory for Rochester.
The Amerks continue their four-game homestand on Wednesday, Feb. 19 as the Iowa Wild make their inaugural visit to The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
Its a monster game because Iowa trails Rochester by five points for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. An Amerks win would create quite a cushion for Rochester. If the Wild steal two points on the road, the Amerks fall back onto the playoff fence.