Travis Morin made sure the Texas Stars' Game 3 finish was just as good as their start.
Morin scored in overtime as the Stars held off the hometown St. John's IceCaps 2-1 on Wednesday to take a 2-1 series lead in the American Hockey League's Calder Cup final.
Morin tipped home a point shot from Brendan Ranford while stationed on the doorstep 7:20 into OT, but Stars coach Willie Desjardins credited his team's start in the win.
"We had a really good first two periods, probably the best two we've played," he said. "The [IceCaps] showed they are resilient and came back, and overtime could have gone either way. Both teams are resilient."
A low-scoring affair suits the IceCaps' game plan perfectly, according to St. John's coach Keith McCambridge, although he wasn't content with how his team started.
"That's our type of game, keeping it close like that and not giving up a lot of chances. It took us probably two periods to get our feet underneath us and to get our speed up and get our feet moving," said McCambridge.
"[I thought] we did that in the third period, we were able to create some chances and get in the game. I liked our third, but was only OK with our first or second. As the game wore on, we realized we have to have our speed at a higher level."
Brett Ritchie also scored for the Stars, while Kael Mouillierat had the lone goal for St. John's.
A scoreless first period extended into the second when IceCaps goaltender Michael Hutchinson made a spectacular save at 10:53. Hutchinson sprawled out for a high-glove save on a one-timer by Morin, who wired a slapshot from the left face-off dot.
The Stars opened the scoring when Ritchie tapped in a rebound five-hole while stationed in front of the net 15:54 into the second period. Hutchinson made the first save, but the puck bounced right onto the stick of Ritchie.
The IceCaps levelled the game with 8:16 left in the third. Mouillierat tipped home a Zach Redmond point shot into the high corner of the Stars' net.
Just 3:05 into overtime the IceCaps thought they had a goal after jarring the puck loose from Stars goalie Cristopher Nilstorp, but the referee had blown his whistle thinking the puck was covered.
Nilstorp finished with 31 saves, while Hutchinson stopped 34 shots. Desjardins praised both goalies for their play.
"I liked ([Nilstorp] all night long, I thought he played pretty good," said Desjardins. "I think [Hutchinson] has been good all series. He's a good goaltender. He [has saved] anything he can get a good look at."
Game 4 is Monday in St. John's. While not ideal, McCambridge said losing Game 3 isn't a "morale blow" for the IceCaps.
"It's just one game, a lost game. You can't expect to win every single game. We have a really good character group. We realize we didn't play our best for two periods. We'll get back to the rink tomorrow and get back to where we need to be for Game 4 … We wouldn't expect anything but a long series here. Playoffs aren't decided in one game."