Matt Foy forced overtime with 4:54 left in regulation and Marc Cavosie scored the deciding shootout goal, lifting the Houston Aeros to 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Barons at National City Rink in Gund Arena. Christoph Brandner also scored, Erik Reitz had his second straight two-assist game and Mike Smith made a season-high 38 saves for the Aeros, who have won three straight on the road for the first time since January 22-25, 2003. Houston, which moved into a first-place tie with Milwaukee in the West with 24 points, also snapped a five-game losing streak against the Barons.
The Aeros, who won 10 road games all of last season, improved to 8-4-1-1 away from Toyota Center and will try to finish off a five-game road trip with four wins Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Cleveland. Houston opens a season-long eight-game homestand Friday at 7:35 p.m. versus Utah.
Riley Armstrong and Tomas Plihal each scored and Dmitri Patzold made 32 saves for Cleveland, which had won five straight and seven of eight versus Houston. The Barons are winless in three straight (0-2-0-1) overall.
A terrific third period set up the shootout.
With the teams tied at 1-1, Plihal took advantage of a funny bounce off the boards to put the Barons on top for the first time with his sixth goal of the season with 7:00 left in regulation.
But it took the Aeros only 2:06 to answer, on Foys second in as many games and fourth of the season. Mikko Koivu carried the puck into the zone and let one loose on Patzold, who coughed up the rebound to Foy.
Houston had a 3-1 advantage in overtime shots but couldnt get the puck past Patzold. Armstrong actually had the stanzas best shot, but he whistled an attempt just wide with 1:30 left.
After Mikko Koivu scored for Houston and Patrick Rissmiller tallied for Cleveland, Cavosie put Houston up 2-1 in the third round of the shootout. Cavosie faked several times before sneaking the puck under Patzold. Smith then stopped Christian Ehrhoff, setting up Cullen for the cluncher.
Cullen buried a forehand-to-backhand move to give Houston the two-score edge, and Grant Stevenson rang his shot off the top of the crossbar to end the game.
Houston improved to 2-1 in shootouts and 4-2 overall in games decided after regulation.
Brandners fourth of the season, 5:53 into the game, gave Houston its first lead all season over the Barons. Kyle Wanvig, who entered the game without a point in his last 11 contests, slid a blind, backhanded pass to Brandner at the doorstep, and the lanky Austrian got enough of the puck to bang it off Patzolds pads and just over the line. The helper was Wanvigs first of the season. Reitz picked up the second assist, the 50th point of his Aeros and pro career.
Smith rescued his team midway through the second, as he made a facemask save after a turnover behind his own net.
Clevelands Marcel Goc nearly evened things up after a Houston turnover on the power play early in the second, but he clanged a shot off the post. Seconds later, Smith robbed Garrett Stafford, who skated in after another turnover.
Wanvig, still in search of the first goal since October 29, had his shot ring off the post seven minutes into the second.
Reitz was whistled for a double minor (hooking, elbowing) just before the midway point of the middle stanza, resulting in a four-minute power play for Cleveland. Smith was brilliant during the penalty kill, although Patzold had perhaps the biggest stop during the span, kicking out a Cavosie shorthanded breakaway attempt with his skate.
The Barons finally broke through against Smith on their seventh power play, with 4:17 left in the second after Rickard Wallin was called for holding the stick. Ehrhoffs rifle from the point banked off Armstrong and eluded Smith. Houstons Dan Cavanaugh was given a 10-minute misconduct after the goal.
The Barons, with the help of four power plays, outshot Houston 17-10 in the second.
Things appeared to turn around in favor of Houston when Ehrhoff was called for tripping with six seconds left in the middle period, giving the Aeros the power play. But Smith was whistled for slashing after the buzzer.
Clevelands Nick Bootland picked off a cross-ice pass between the circles at the midway point of the third, but Smith snared the ensuing attempt with his glove. Two minutes later, the Barons Rissmiller just pulled a shot wide.
Houston went 0-for-4 on the power play, snapping a streak of five straight games with a man advantage goal. Cleveland finished 1-for-8. Houston has killed off 50 of its last 55 shorthanded chances over its last 10 games.
The Aeros scratched Chris Heid, Todd Reirden, Derek Boogaard and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Houston is a perfect 8-0-0-0 when scoring first, and the Aeros havent yet lost a game on the road in which theyve led (8-0-0-0).
The Barons fell to 2-4-0-2 at home.
Houston has allowed only two first-period goals in its last four games after yielding 21 in its first 16 contests.
The Aeros (11-7-1-1) have reached 11 victories in 20 games. Last season it took them 28 games and until December 17 to hit that plateau (11-13-2-2).
Smith has won six of his last seven decisions.
Houston is 7-3-1-1 in one-goal games, tying Philadelphia for the league lead in such victories. The Aeros are also a league-best 6-1-1-1 in one-goal road games.
Wanvig tied Greg Pankewicz for 21st on the teams all-time point list with 87. Cavanaugh is 20th with 90.
Houston won for just the third time (3-3-0-1) when not scoring a power play goal.
The Aeros eight road wins trail only Manitobas nine for the AHL lead. Houston has won six of eight away from Toyota Center.
Amazingly, Houston is 6-1-0-0 when getting outshot.