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Stars take 6-5 OT win in epic Game 7

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TEXAS 6, CHICAGO 5 (OT) II Western Conf. Finals schedule
Rookie Jamie Benn wristed a shot home short side from the left circle at 4:57 of overtime, sending resurgent Texas to a dramatic 6-5 road win over Chicago in Game 7 of the West Division Finals on Tuesday night at Allstate Arena.

The Stars, who first rallied from a pair of two-goal deficits and then had to recover from a one-goal deficit late in the third period, advance to take on the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Western Conference Finals. That series will begin on Friday night in Hamilton.

Benn’s team-leading eighth goal of the playoffs and fifth goal of this series came unassisted and was the culmination of a dominant overtime for Texas. The Stars outshot Chicago 9-2 in the extra session, 24-6 in the third period and overtime combined, and 53-29 for the game.

It marked the 15th Game 7 in Calder Cup Playoff history which extended to overtime, and the first since Hershey’s 5-4 win over Portland in the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals.

Chicago, which entered the game 6-0 all-time in AHL winner-take-all contests, took a 2-0 lead before the game was five minutes old. Spencer Machacek scored at the 3:22 mark, and Brett Sterling followed at 4:22.

But just 35 seconds later, rookie Travis Morin netted his third goal of the series for Texas, and Scott McCulloch’s first of the playoffs tied it up only 20 seconds after Morin’s goal.

Machacek put the Wolves back on top heading into intermission with an unassisted shorthanded tally at 18:09, and Tim Stapleton made it a 4-2 lead for Chicago early in the second frame.

The Stars answered back again, though, as Aaron Gagnon cut it to 4-3 midway through the second, and defenseman Maxime Fortunus (1-2-3) one-timed a shot from the high slot at 4:09 of the third to tie the contest at 4-4.

Wolves forward Jason Krog, the MVP of the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs, gave his club the lead once more at 9:45 when he collected a loose puck in the slot and backhanded it off the crossbar and behind Stars goaltender Matt Climie.

But for a third time, Texas wouldn’t go away. At 13:50, Fortunus sent a cross-ice pass to defensive partner Andrew Hutchinson at the left point, and the former Calder Cup champion sent a one-time rocket through traffic past Wolves netminder Drew MacIntyre.

Neither team scored again until the rookie Benn sent the Stars to the conference finals in their inaugural season, making them the first team to accomplish that feat since the 2002-03 Binghamton Senators.

Climie made 24 saves in net for the Stars, while MacIntyre took the loss despite stopping 47 of 53 shots.

West Division Finals – Series “L” (best-of-7)
W1-Chicago Wolves vs. W2-Texas Stars
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 30 – Texas 4, CHICAGO 3 (OT)
Game 2 – Sun., May 2 – CHICAGO 4, Texas 3 (2OT)
Game 3 – Tue., May 4 – Chicago 5, TEXAS 3
Game 4 – Wed., May 5 – TEXAS 3, Chicago 2
Game 5 – Fri., May 7 – TEXAS 5, Chicago 3
Game 6 – Sun., May 9 – CHICAGO 2, Texas 0
Game 7 – Tue., May 11 – Texas 6, CHICAGO 5 (OT)