Moments after the Chicago Wolves finished erasing a three-goal deficit, the Texas Stars posted a shorthanded goal and an empty-netter to claim a 5-3 victory Sunday afternoon at Allstate Arena.
Forward CJ Smith scored twice and forward Stefan Noesen added his league-leading 38th goal for the Wolves (41-13-5-5), who now must wait until Wednesday for their next chance to clinch a first-round bye in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Noesen’s goal knotted the score with 3:34 left and the Wolves earned a power-play chance moments later, but Texas’ Ty Dellandrea swiped a pass at center ice and took it in for a shorthanded goal with 2:15 to go.
“Just small details that win you the games and lose you the games,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “Small detail on our breakout route and we can’t make a play and they pick it off. I thought the resolve we had to come back was good. We know we can come back no matter what the deficit is, but it’s a learning experience of small details.”
For the first time in eight games, the Wolves did not produce the game’s opening goal. Texas’ Fredrik Karlstrom scored at 11:19 of the first as Oskar Back whipped a shot off the end wall and Karlstrom took advantage of a friendly bounce to knock home the rebound.
The Stars (27-24-6-5) took advantage of a Wolves major penalty to add two power-play goals in a 22-second span late in the first period. Riley Damiani scored on a rebound during a 5-on-3 at 18:43, then Back scored a conventional power-play goal to make it 3-0 at 19:05 of the first.
Smith launched the Wolves’ comeback at 3:21 of the second. Andrew Poturalski tracked down a rebound and slid a backhand pass that Noesen tipped to Smith along the goal line to goaltender Matt Jurusik’s left. Smith zipped a shot through the tiny open space between Jurusik’s skates to cut the deficit to 3-1 with his 21st goal of the year.
Smith delivered again with 2.3 seconds left in the second to make it 3-2. With the Wolves enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage, Noesen and Poturalski moved the puck swiftly to Smith in the slot. His first shot was blocked, but he dug the puck out of a Texas defender’s skates and roofed a backhand over Jurusik’s shoulder.
The Wolves completed their rally with 3:34 to go in regulation. Defenseman Chris Bigras collected a pass from Smith and used the inside of his right foot to kick it to Noesen in the slot. Noesen blasted a one-timer into the top corner to give the Wolves a 3-3 knot.
Shortly thereafter, Dellandrea swiped a pass at center ice and launched a 2-on-0 breakaway. Wolves goaltender Jack LaFontaine got a good chunk of Dellandrea’s shot, but it trickled through for the go-ahead shorthanded goal. Defenseman Joseph Cecconi added an empty-netter from deep in the defensive zone with 31 seconds left to clinch Texas’ second win in eight tries this season against the Wolves.
LaFontaine (2-2-4) finished with a career-high 34 saves while Jurusik (10-6-4) stopped 29 shots to pick up Texas’ fifth win in a row.
The Wolves’ five-game homestand continues with a rematch against Texas at 11 a.m. Wednesday. On Saturday, Chicago hosts Manitoba at 7 p.m. and the first 1,500 fans receive a Wolves Goalie Mask Bank courtesy of My50 Chicago. On Sunday, Chicago faces Cleveland on Wizards Day. To find the best ticket specials, email a team representative at WolvesTix@ChicagoWolves.com.