Pierre-Marc Bouchards deciding shootout goal lifted the Houston Aeros to a thrilling 5-4 victory over the Edmonton Road Runners at Rexall Place. Mark Cullen tallied a goal and an assist in a three-goal first period, and Christoph Brandner, Dan Cavanaugh and Ray Giroux also scored for the Aeros, who recovered from losing a three-goal lead to win their third straight.
Mike Smith made 29 saves, plus all four in the shootout, for the Aeros, who bested Edmonton 3-2 last night. The Aeros won back-to-back road games on just two occasions in 2003-04. Monday at 10:05 a.m. at 6-0-0-0 Hartford, Houston will go after its first three-game road winning streak since January 22-25, 2003. The game will be the third on the Aeros season-long six-game road trip, which includes five encounters with teams that entered this weekends play in first place.
Jarret Stoll had two goals and an assist and Doug Lynch and Jamie Wright also scored for Edmonton, which entered the weekend with a North Division-leading 11 points. Tony Salmelainen supplied four assists and Tyler Moss made 28 saves for the Road Runners.
The Aeros last played a shootout April 13, 2001, a 3-2 win at Utah. The American Hockey League instituted a shootout to break ties at the end of overtime beginning this season.
In the first round of the shootout, Bouchard, who didnt score on a breakaway in overtime, let the puck roll of his stick but the shot still beat Moss. Edmontons Toby Peterson then fanned on a shot but wasnt so lucky. In the second round, Moss stopped Brandner with his blocker, and Salmelainen didnt get off a good shot on Smith.
Kyle Wanvig went in round No. 3 for Houston, and Moss swallowed up his shot. Smith then sticked aside Jeff Woywitkas attempt. Stephane Veilleux hit the crossbar for the Aeros, and Smith grabbed Wrights attempt with his glove.
Ray Giroux, the Aeros fifth participant, went top shelf on Moss to secure the victory.
Houston was seemingly in control with a three-goal lead late in the second period. But Lynch made it 4-2 with a shorthanded goal with 28 seconds left. Salmelainen broke in around Zbynek Michalek, who drew a delayed penalty. But before Houston could touch up, Lynch poked the puck away from Smith and into the net for his second goal in two games.
Lynchs tally energized Edmonton, which came out and didnt allow Houston a shot in the opening eight minutes of the third period.
Wright got the Road Runners within one on a breakaway 6:35 into the third, his second goal of the season.
Stolls second of the game tied the game with 9:41 left in regulation, with Marius Holtet in the penalty box for goaltender interference. Stolls shot from the point, off Salmelainens fourth assist of the night, went through a screen and by Smith 17 seconds into the man advantage.
Giroux rescued the Aeros with 2:30 left in overtime, when Smith let the puck get behind him in the crease. But the veteran defenseman cleared it out of trouble as the crowd got to its feet.
Bouchards second breakaway of the game nearly ended it all a minute later, but a sprawling save by Moss sent the game into the shootout. Seconds later, Edmontons Joe Cullen missed the net ahead of the pack. The entertaining extra session saw nine shots.
Houston finished 1-for-4 on the power play, while Edmonton went 1-for-3. The Aeros are 6-for-23 on the power play over the last three games.
It didnt take Smith long into the contest to be tested, as he robbed Salmelainen 30 seconds into the game on Edmontons first chance.
Cavanaughs second goal in as many nights, on the heels of a Road Runners power play, gave Houston a 1-0 lead 3:58 into the game. A wraparound attempt on Smith shot out to center ice to Rickard Wallin, who was coming out of the penalty box. Wallin broke in on Moss 2-on-1 with Cavanaugh, and his saucer pass to Cavanaugh was whacked into the net. The goal marked the first time in four road games that the Aeros have scored the games first goal.
Edmonton nearly scored on the exact same play minutes later, but a sliding Erik Reitz broke up a 2-on-1 pass.
Stolls second goal of the season evened things up at 9:13. Stoll took a drop pass from Salmelainen and rocketed a slapshot high blocker side by Smith.
Houston scored twice in less than four minutes later in the period to appear to take control.
The Aeros regained the lead on Cullens goal six seconds a power play expired with 6:36 remaining. Reitz let one go from the right point, and Cullen, alone at the far post, redirected the puck into the net for his second of the season.
Cullen then set up Brandners first goal with 2:43 left in the first. Cullen, held without a point last night in his first matchup against younger brother Joe, stole a clearing attempt and quickly fed Brandner in the slot, and the lanky Austrian ripped one under the crossbar to extend his point streak to three games.
The Aeros used the two-goal lead to build a defensive game in the second period, holding the Road Runners without a shot for the opening 14 minutes.
Moss helped keep Edmontons deficit to two goals when he stopped Bouchard on a 4-on-4 partial breakaway five minutes into the second.
With the Road Runners still trying to get their first shot of the stanza, Girouxs power-play marker made it 4-1 Aeros with 7:16 left. Giroux took a feed from Bouchard at the center point, and the defenseman threw the puck on net through a screen. It banked off an Edmonton defender and into the net for Girouxs second goal with the Aeros and 199th career AHL point.
Wallin has an assist in four straight games, tying his career-high set October 18-23, 2002, his first season in Houston.
Brandners three-game point streak is just one shy of his North American career-high, set last March 20-26.
Last season, Houston had 10 road wins and just three against teams above the .500 mark. Already, the Aeros have two wins against a first-place team on the road.
Bouchard has an assist in six of the Aeros nine power play goals. Bouchard has 49 career points.
The Aeros are 3-0-1 when Bouchard has a point. When hes in the lineup and held off the scoresheet, Houston is 0-3-0.
Moss fell to 3-9-3 in his career versus the Aeros.
Smith is 3-0 in his AHL career in overtime and now 1-0 in shootouts.
The Aeros last won when allowing four or more goals March 20, 2003, a 5-4 overtime decision in San Antonio.
It was the final day of the 2002-03 regular season when the Aeros were over the .500 mark past one game into the season. Houston is 4-3-1-0 this season.