DES MOINES, IA – It was a playoff atmosphere in Des Moines on Friday evening, as the Iowa Wild welcomed the Texas Stars holding a one-point advantage over Texas with just four games left in the season. Zane McIntyre was spectacular for Iowa, setting aside 33 shots, but Matthew Murray simply outplayed him, stopping all 38 shots he faced as the Stars defeated the Wild, 1-0. Joel L’Esperance scored the only goal of the contest with a little under four minutes left in the game to provide the only goal that Murray would need.
Texas had the better of the play in the first frame, outshooting Iowa 13-8. Texas had a number of great chances, including three power-play opportunities, but McIntyre stood strong.
The game remained scoreless through the first period and remained that way in the second as well, as both Murray and McIntyre made a number of spectacular saves in the second frame. The Stars outshot the Wild 17-12 in the period, but it was Iowa dominating the frame early. At one point, the Wild had seven straight shots on the net, including back-to-back opportunities by Nick Swaney and Mitchell Chaffee just before the nine-minute mark. However, Murray made solid saves on both chances to keep the game scoreless.
McIntyre was no less spectacular, especially at the 15:20 mark when Curtis McKenzie looked like he had the Iowa netminder leaning the other way, but somehow McIntyre was able to get back into position and deny McKenzie’s backhand attempt.
This contest looked like it may be headed to overtime, as neither team could solve the equation of the opposing goaltender, but L’Esperance was able to finally break the tie, scoring at the 16:34 mark. Anthony Louis passed the puck to L’Esperance moving across the slot. The Texas forward was able to tuck the puck just past the outstretched leg of McIntyre for his 24th goal of the season.
With a little under two minutes left in the contest, Iowa got a break when Alex Petrovic was called for tripping. The club pulled McIntyre with just over two minutes left trying to get the equalizer, but Murray made four saves in the final minute to preserve the victory.
Murray made 38 saves to earn the win, moving to 3-1-0 since joining Texas. McIntyre was spectacular as well, stopping 33 of 34 shots in the loss, moving him to 18-12-3 with the Wild.
The loss now gives Texas and Iowa the same winning percentage at .514. The Stars have one more point (72 – 71) but have played one more game than the Wild. These two teams will square off again on Saturday evening. The puck drops at 6 p.m.
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