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Moose stumble in stinker

Overtime curse bites team again after 10 straight playoff victories

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HOUSTON -- Last spring, it was the darkest cloud imaginable for the Manitoba Moose.

This spring, it's still in the sky and it rained on their parade Wednesday night at Toyota Center.

Overtime.

After 10 straight wins, the Moose just couldn't get it done in extra time and the Houston Aeros lived to fight another day with a 5-4 victory. It brings the best-of-seven AHL Western Conference final series to 3-1 for the Moose, with Game 5 here Friday.

Manitoba has lost both overtime contests it has played in these playoffs.

In 2008 when the Moose were ousted 4-2 by Syracuse, all four losses came in overtime.

Beyond three periods a night, Moose stats are ugly. They've lost four in a row and 10 of the last 11.

"I don't think anyone would have thought it would be a run-and-gun shootout," said Moose captain Mike Keane, whose two-goal, three-point night was ruined by Matt Beaudoin's overtime marker for Houston at 2:01. "We both can score goals. We were not as tight as we want to be.

"We don't give up a lot of chances or back-to-back goals during shifts. It's something we'll get better at. No surprise. They were fighting for their lives."

The Moose tied it late in the game, with Keane assisting Mario Bliznak's marker with 2:39 to play.

But it was one of the few bright spots in what Moose coach Scott Arniel called a foul effort.

"For us, I can say we flat-out stunk for three periods plus whatever," Arniel said. "We stunk. Everybody. From our goaltender through our defence to our forwards, we did not play very well and we kept finding ways to tie it up.

"But the chances we gave up, the quality we gave up, we don't do that very often."

Since being down 2-1 in their first-round series to Toronto, the Moose sizzled with 10 straight wins that included a sweep of Grand Rapids and three more against the Aeros.

Maybe it has led to some bad habits. Maybe not.

"That was more a game of river hockey," said Moose centre Jason Krog, who had a goal and two points. "We're really not happy with the way we played. We veered from our systems and what's given us success playing pretty tight hockey, also hard-working and simple.

"They were desperate, give them credit. They've got a little momentum so now it's up to us to regroup and come back at them."

Were the Moose, who played the game without an injured Alexandre Bolduc, overdue for a bomb?

Focused

"I thought there would be one somewhere but I was hoping it wouldn't happen," Arniel said. "In saying that, sometimes it takes a kick like this to ground you and make you recognize what got you to this point. We'll get ourselves focused for Friday. If we clean up our game, I think the results will take care of themselves."

Keane said it was preposterous that the winning streak was any factor.

"No, that's you guys thinking it's a stat," the captain said. "We don't think about it like that. We go in the moment, in the now. We had to be sharp tonight and we weren't for whatever reason.

"It's a learning process. We knew they'd have a real hard push and now it's back to work on Friday."

The win for Houston was its first all season against the Moose, who had won the first seven, including the regular season.

"We got a little bit of humble pie tonight," Arniel added.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2009 C1

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