DES MOINES, Iowa – New Year’s Eve is a time for celebration, but the Iowa Wild were likely feeling anything but festive after three times giving up the lead on Tuesday afternoon. However, Brennan Menell made sure that 2019 ended on a high note, scoring a power-play goal with a little over a minute left in the contest to give the Wild a 5-4 victory over the Texas Stars. The power play was the big story of the game as Iowa connected on all four of their opportunities with the man advantage.
The Wild jumped out in front 2:38 into the contest. With the faceoff in the Stars end, Texas won the draw and the puck was carried behind the net. Sam Anas quickly moved behind Dillon Heatherington, stealing the puck and then tucking the wraparound by Jake Oettinger before he could get into position. That was the ninth goal of the year for Anas.
About 10 minutes later, the Stars tied the score. Texas sent on the extra attacker during a delayed penalty. Reece Scarlett fired a shot from the point that was knocked down in traffic, but it came right to Joel L’Esperance. He sent a wrist shot on net that Kaapo Kahkonen saved, but the rebound came right back to him and he was able to knock the puck in for his 15th goal of the year.
At 17:53, Nico Sturm scored the first of four power-play goals by the Wild. As the man advantage was in its final seconds, J.T. Brown passed the puck to Brandon Duhaime at the net. His shot was saved, but the puck came loose to the other side of the net. Sturm alertly moved in, tucking the puck in with a backhand shot. That was the seventh goal of the season for Sturm who just returned from the Minnesota Wild.
Eight minutes into the second, the Stars tied the score. Anthony Louis carried the puck out of his own end and down the boards into the Wild zone on a 2-on-1. He waited for Joel Kiviranta to enter the play, passing it back to Kiviranta in the slot. The Texas forward fired a wrist shot that found the upper corner of the net to tie the score at two.
The Wild looked like they retook the lead two minutes later. Connor Dewar sped into the Texas end, then made a great move, sweeping across the goalmouth, getting Oettinger down before firing a wrist shot that looked like it hit the bar in the back of the net and bounced out. The light came on and it was originally ruled a goal, but the referee overruled the call after reviewing the play.
Undeterred, the Wild would retake the lead at the 11-minute mark on their second power-play goal of the contest. Anas had the puck along the right boards. He passed it to Kyle Rau at the corner of the net, who quickly redirected to Gerald Mayhew in the slot. Mayhew blasted the one-timer by the Stars goalie for his 19th goal of the year. The tic-tac-toe tally made it 3-2 Iowa.
With a little over five minutes left in the frame, the Wild extended their lead to two on another goal with the man advantage. From the blueline, Menell passed the puck across the slot to Luke Johnson, who blasted the one-timer from the left faceoff circle. Oettinger made the save, but the rebound was loose in front of the net. Rau battled through his defender, knocking the loose puck in as he was falling down for his seventh goal of the year.
Texas cut their deficit to one with 1:37 left in the second period. Tye Felhaber carried the puck into the Wild end. He waited for his teammates to get set up, then passed the puck to Michael Mersch at the right faceoff circle. Mersch corralled the puck then fired a blistering wrist shot that beat Kahkonen for his 11th goal of the season and fourth against the Wild this year.
Iowa held the one-goal lead into the third, but the Stars tied the score just before the 10-minute mark. Emil Djuse stole the puck as the Wild were entering the Texas zone, then headed the other way on a 2-on-1 break. He fed Brad McClure who gave it right back on the give-and-go. Djuse redirected the puck in for his third goal of the season and the score was tied at four.
It was beginning to look like this game may slip away, but Menell sent the crowd of 6,420 home ecstatic, delivering the game-winner with 1:12 left in the contest. With Iowa on their fourth power play of the game, the defenseman had the puck near center ice. He opted the lead the rush, making a great move by knocking the puck off the boards and back to himself to get passed the Texas defender. That allowed him to sweep in on net on a partial breakaway. He looked like he was going to go across the crease but, instead, took the shot on the short side, tucking it between the arm and side of Oettinger and in for his third goal of the year.
The Stars pulled their goalie for the extra attacker but would not get another shot on net as the Iowa Wild closed out the victory, 5-4. The Wild had not scored a power-play goal at home in the entire month of December but came away with four goals with the man-advantage on Tuesday. Rau and Anas each had a goal and two assists. Menell had a goal and an assist. Joel Hanley and McClure led the Texas offense with two assists each.
The Wild victory marked the first time in the last 13 games that the Stars did not earn at least one point against Iowa.
The Wild close out their three-game homestand on Friday night when they take on the Rockford IceHogs. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:00.
Follow Robert on Twitter for all the latest news and notes concerning the Iowa Wild! Don’t forget to “like” The Sin Bin on Facebook for all additional AHL, ECHL, and SPHL minor league hockey coverage!