ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - You've got to be good to be lucky and the Texas Stars were both Friday night.
While the Stars attributed fortuitous bounces to their 3-1 win in Abbotsford, the Heat head coach Troy Ward said his team had no answer for an opponent on a roll.
"Sometimes you've got to give credit where credit is due,” said Heat head coach Troy Ward. "They had momentum the whole night. Their goalie saw the puck well. They played solid. They're a good team. We only beat them 1-0 in overtime down there. We expected what we got tonight. They were just the better team."
The Dallas Stars' American Hockey League affiliate is unbeaten in five games and 7-1-1 in the last nine — and they caught the Heat in a bad spot. Abbotsford had returned from a road trip and were playing after having three days off.
"(In that situation), you're losing 80 per cent of the time and we fell into that," said Ward. "We were slow mentally. We were on our heels."
While the Heat are struggling to hang on to first in the Western Conference with just one win in six games, the Stars have moved into fifth and are just three points out of the South Division lead.
"We're getting good bounces," said Stars' defenceman Jordie Benn. "The hockey gods are with us right now."
The Heat had not lost in regulation on home ice in October or November but have already dropped three at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre this month. They seem to have a bull's eye on their back.
"They're a top team and we want to prove we can play with them," said Dallas' Cody Eakin. "Any points are huge right now as we get ready for the second half of the season. We're on a pretty good track right now."
Eakin and Reilly Smith each had a goal and an assist, while Taylor Vause also scored for the Stars (13-8-3).
With the score 2-1 in the third, Eakin scored the goal that proved to be a dagger.
"The nail in the coffin was the third one," said Ward. "I thought 'If it stays 2-1 for a while it'll be OK' but it didn't. That was the real kicker."
Cristopher Nilstorp stopped 20 shots for Texas, picking up his ninth win of the season.
"He's been playing great for a while now and that's what we need," said Benn. "He's a big part of why we're winning."
Brady Lamb had the lone goal for Abbotsford (14-4-6), while Danny Taylor made 23 saves in net.
The Stars opened the scoring at the five-minute mark, taking advantage of an untimely penalty by Abbotsford's Zack McKelvie. After Toby Petersen was stopped on a partial breakaway McKelvie engaged in a scrum and came out with an extra two minutes for roughing.
Just 25 seconds in Smith converted Eakin's rebound, with Tomas Vincour picking up a helper as well.
The Heat were being outshot 13-0 at one point in the second period but tied the game at 12:52. T.J. Brodie took the puck down low and centred for Ben Walter. Though Nilstorp kicked out his one-timer attempt the puck made its way to the point where Lamb teed up a slapshot top corner for his first professional goal.
The Stars regained the lead at 16:21. Mike Hedden took the puck to the net and though Taylor stuffed his shot, Vause raced in to lift the puck over the goalie's blocker.
Vause just signed his second consecutive tryout contract with the Stars on Wednesday, going goalless in his first nine games.
Texas doubled their lead at 18:20. Alex Chiasson wheeled his way to the high slot and backhanded a shot on net that was deflected in by Eakin.
Texas then killed off back-to-back power plays late in the third period to seal the victory.