Stephane Veilleux snapped a tie late in the second period with a shorthanded goal and Mika Hannula and Jason Marshall also scored, leading the Houston Aeros to their second straight win, a 3-1 decision over the Chicago Wolves at Toyota Center. Johan Holmqvist turned aside 23 shots for Houston, which has won back-to-back games for the first time this season. The rejuvenated Aeros have climbed within three points of sixth-place Cincinnati, a 2-0 loser in Utah this afternoon, and have two games in hand on the Mighty Ducks.
Kari Lehtonen made 38 saves and former Aero Greg Hawgood had the lone goal for Chicago, which fell to 2-5-0 in its last seven.
Houston, which went 0-12-2-1 when allowing the games first goal prior to Friday, now have two straight come-from-behind victories. The Aeros also improved to 7-0-0-0 when allowing one goal, having not won when yielding two or more.
Neither team cracked the scoreboard in the opening period, but Chicago broke on top early in the second, after Houstons Jeff Hoggan rolled one off the near post.
Just after the Hoggan chance, the Aeros penalty killing unit was tested, and Chicago came through with a goal. Hannula was called for tripping, and Jason Beckett was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct at the same time. The result was a Chicago 5-on-3 for two minutes, and the Wolves scored with 16 seconds left on the advantage. Brad Tapper, in the lower left circle, slid a pass through the crease to Hawgood, who poked the puck into an open net for his third of the season at the 2:51 mark.
Hawgoods goal was Chicagos only shot of the opening 11 minutes of the period, which saw Houston outshoot the Wolves 18-8.
Hannula got Houston even five minutes into the second. Rickard Wallin, behind the cage, left a pretty pass for Hannula, who backhanded the puck shortside past Lehtonen for his fifth of the season and second in two games. The goal was nearly identical to the one the two Sweden natives paired for in Fridays 3-1 win over Cincinnati.
Matt Foy nearly gave the Aeros the lead 30 seconds later, with Holmqvist off for the extra attacker. Lehtonen, though, sat down and got a pad on the attempt from between the circles. Houston controlled the puck for some 45 seconds before Chicago could touch up.
The Aeros had several good chances on the ensuing power play, the best when Veilleux whistled one just wide of the far post with Lehtonen on the ground.
Hannula deflected a shot just wide with 7:45 left in the second, as he, Wallin and Hoggan continued to dominate play.
Veilleuxs first goal in 13 games, a shorthanded tally, with 4:16 left in the second put the Aeros on top 2-1. With Kyle Wanvig in the box, Houstons Dan Cavanaugh (two assists) won a race for the puck just inside the Houston blueline. He slid a cross-ice pass to a wide open Veilleux, who broke in on Lehtonen alone. Veilleux faked and went glove side past Lehtonen for his third goal of the season and the first since November 8 in Utah.
Veilleux had another shorthanded chance seconds later, but the net came off its moorings before the puck crossed the line.
Chicago went back on the power play just 32 seconds after Wanvigs release, as the Aeros were called for too many men on the ice. Houstons Travis Roche nearly put in another shortie, but Lehtonen gloved the defensemans shot up and over the net.
Marshall and the Houston power play struck with 4:46 gone by in the third. Marshall wound up on a pass from Cavanaugh and rattled one by Lehtonen for his third of the season to make it 3-1. The goal came with Chicagos Zdenyk Blatney in the box for slashing. That penalty followed an elbowing call to Libor Ustrnul, as the Wolves were on the penalty kill for nearly three minutes. Roche also picked up an assist on the play.
The Aeros finished 1-for-8 on the power play. The Aeros are 5-for-75 on the power play in the last 11 games on the power play and two for their last 46. Chicago went 1-for-7 with the man advantage.
The Aeros outshot Chicago 13-5 in the first period, but it was the Wolves that had perhaps the best chance and Hoggan that made the best save.
With 2:20 left in the first, Kamil Piros got the puck in the lower left circle with Holmqvist on the ground after a diving save. Hoggan laid out to block the shot with his body, and his teammates were able to clear the puck away from the open net.
- Holmqvist evened his career record versus Chicago at 2-2-1.
- Cavanaugh has a four-game point streak, with a goal and five helpers in the span. Cavanaugh has had a hand in six of the teams last eight goals.
- Houston is 6-2-0-2 when scoring three or more goals.