Mikko Koivu and Brent Burns scored 26 seconds apart on Houstons first two shots of the game and Marius Holtet added a goal and an assist, as the Aeros handed the defending Calder Cup champion Milwaukee Admirals their first regulation loss in 18 games with a 5-2 victory at Bradley Center.
Marc Cavosie and Mark Cullen also scored and Mike Smith made 20 saves for Houston, which moved into a first-place tie with Milwaukee with 18 points. The Aeros, who hadnt held a share of first since the final day of the 2002-03 season, snapped a nine-game winless streak (0-7-1-1) against the Admirals in a matchup of the last two Calder Cup champions.
The Aeros return home Sunday for a 5:05 p.m. Family Day matchup against the Edmonton Road Runners. Get four tickets, four pucks, $20 in Toyota Bucks and free parking for $59 at www.aeros.com/themenights
. Username is Family, password is Aeros. Fans can also get $5 off a $20 corner ticket by bringing a non-perishable food item to the game to benefit the End Hunger Network. The Bus II will offer drink specials, $1 hot dogs and free hot dogs for kids 12 and under beginning at 3 p.m.
Timofei Shishkanov and Wyatt Smith scored power play goals and Brian Finley turned aside 19 shots for the Admirals, who became the final AHL team to lose in regulation this season (8-1-1-1). The Admirals had been 15-0-1-1 dating back to a 4-1 loss to Rochester in the Western Conference Finals last May 20.
Milwaukee came out flying and peppered Smith with the games first five shots over the opening five minutes.
But after Smith made a great save, Koivus first goal since returning from an appendectomy put the Aeros on top at 5:43. Matt Foy split defenders at the left point and streaked through the circle, firing a cross-ice pass to Koivu, who rifled the puck past Finley on Houstons first shot. The goal was Koivus second in three games this season.
Just 26 seconds later, Burns third goal gave Houston a two-goal advantage. Another nice feed, this one by Holtet, set up the defensemans tally.
The Admirals solved Smith with just 29 seconds left in the first with Zbynek Michalek in the penalty box. Shishkanov stuffed home a Tony Hrkac feed for his fifth goal of the season. The goal was the first allowed by Smith in 79:31.
The goal was the 10th scored versus the Aeros in the first or last two minutes of a period. Houston has just three goals in that same time.
The Admirals had outscored their opponents 11-2 in the first period and hadnt yielded a first-period goal since October 16 against Rochester. Houston had allowed an AHL-high 17 first-period goals and was outscored 12-4 by Milwaukee in the first period in the 2003-04 season series.
Cavosies first goal since last March 27, on the power play, restored Houstons lead to two goals at 5:30 of the second and eventually went down as the game-winner. Michalek took a pass from Ray Giroux and ripped a shot from the point. Finley made the save, but Cavosie hopped on the rebound and slid it by the netminder. The goal snapped an 0-for-15 power play streak by the Aeros.
Smith robbed Aero-killer Simon Gamache with his glove after a turnover at the midway point of the second period with the teams skating 4-on-4.
Houston poured it on with 6:12 left in the second, making it 4-1 on Holtets second goal in three games. Finley wasnt able to handle Dan Cavanaughs bouncing shot, and the 20-year-old Norweigan rookie corralled the rebound and roofed it under the crossbar. The assist was Cavanaughs second of the game, tying his career high.
The pace of play slowed in the third period, but two early power plays by Houston helped keep Milwaukee at bay.
Then with 7:55 left and the Aeros up 4-1, Admirals coach Claude Noel pulled his goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage when Houstons John Erskine was called for delay of game. The gamble paid off, as Smith banged the puck in the net off an Aeros defenseman at the 13:24 mark, drawing the Admirals within two goals.
Noel tried some trickey again with 57 seconds left, calling for a illegal stick measurement on Houstons Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The referees measured and agreed, giving the Admirals another power play.
However, Cullen notched an unassisted, shorthanded empty-netter from 160 feet out 15 seconds later to seal the game.
Houston finished 1-for-7 on the power play, while Milwaukee went 2-for-5. Shishkanovs goal snapped the Aeros successful penalty kill streak at 23.
Todays game snapped Houstons streak of road one-goal games at nine, which tied a franchise record. It marked the first Aeros road game this season that was decided by more than one goal.
Finley fell to 8-4-1 versus Houston. He has the most wins against the Aeros of any active AHL netminder. Finley entered the game with a 1.74 goals against average, seventh in the AHL.
Milwaukee outscored the Aeros 36-19 in their final nine meetings last season. Houston didnt score more than three goals in any of those games.
Smith has won four straight decisions and is 5-1-0. He hasnt lost since October 22 against Cleveland.
Houston has allowed only three goals total in its last four games.
The Aeros are 6-1-0-0 when playing the second or third of back-to-back situations.
Houston hasnt yet lost a game in which it has held a lead.
The Aeros are 6-2-1-0 when scoring a power play goal and 2-3-0-1 when not.
Houstons 12 road points are tops in the West Division and trail only Manitobas 17 for best on the AHL.
The Aeros are averaging 3.57 goals per game when Smith starts, more than twice the 1.75 they average when Harding starts.
The Aeros scratched Chris Heid, Kyle Wanvig, Todd Reirden and Christoph Brandner.