Winnetka native Jack Drury’s shorthanded goal midway through the third period served as the game-winner as the Chicago Wolves rallied for a 5-3 victory over the Texas Stars Wednesday night at Allstate Arena.
Forwards Stefan Noesen, CJ Smith, Ryan Suzuki and Maxim Letunov joined Drury in the scoring column for the Wolves (31-10-4-4), who increased their Central Division lead to 13 points over the Manitoba Moose.
Rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov (2-0-0) posted 31 saves to earn his second win in as many North American appearances — and notched his first assist as well as he shrugged off a tough start.
Texas (18-20-5-4) jumped on top in record-setting fashion as center Josh Melnick scored eight seconds into the game with a shot from the top of the right circle — the fastest opening goal in a Wolves game during their 28-year history.
“It’s good for us,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “We need to experience these things. And I think it’s a good teaching moment — whether it’s for us in the playoffs or Ryan Suzuki in a year or six months in the NHL and he’s in that situation. You can look at it a lot of different ways — and we need to look at it in a positive way and a teaching moment.”
Chicago responded with Noesen’s league-best 29th goal of the season at 7:21 of the first. Kochetkov kick-started the play as he ranged into the right corner to claim a wild Texas pass and start the breakout with a firm pass to defenseman Max Lajoie. He found Noesen in stride in the middle of the ice and the powerful forward charged into the high slot and beat goaltender Matt Jurusik on the glove side.
Texas regained the lead on Jordan Kawaguchi’s goal at 10:15. He accepted a pass from Rhett Gardner in the left circle, made a quick move and wristed the puck home for a 2-1 edge.
The Wolves opened the second period with an extended surge that enabled them to fire the frame’s first eight shots in the opening 5:19. The Wolves’ seventh shot, a short flip by Smith after Jurusik sprawled to the ice, made it 2-2 at 4:29. Defenseman Jesper Sellgren set it up with a hard pinch along the right half-wall to force a Texas turnover that went to Smith with space to create.
Suzuki gave the Wolves a 3-2 lead at 12:29 of the second. Defenseman Eric Williams fired from the top of the right circle and Jurusik used his right leg to kick the rebound airborne toward the left faceoff dot. Suzuki calculated where it would land slammed the short hop home.
Drury earned a 4-2 lead for the Wolves with his shorthanded tally at 10:24 of the third. He poked the puck free in the defensive zone, fed Spencer Smallman for a redirect that went wide. The puck and Jurusik’s stick flew behind the net, so Drury collected the puck and stuffed it past Jurusik’s skate for his 13th of the year.
The Stars still had time to take advantage of their power play, though, and Ty Dellandrea redirected Ryan Shea’s point shot to cut the Wolves’ lead to 4-3 at 11:14.
Letunov added a crucial insurance goal with 2:36 to play. After Jamieson Rees drew a delayed penalty in the slot, Letunov battled for the puck and dove to swat his own rebound past Jurusik for a 5-3 lead.
Jurusik (7-3-3), a LaGrange native, stopped 29 of 33 shots in the loss.
The Wolves continue their homestand at 7 p.m. Saturday against Texas. The first 2,500 fans through the Allstate Arena doors receive a Wolves mini-snow globe courtesy of Jewel-Osco. Everyone is invited to stay for the free postgame skate, courtesy of Jiffy Lube, and it’s also Adopt-A-Dog Night presented by Premier Veterinary Group.
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