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Michigan State coach Tom Anastos was just about to shorten his bench and change up some forward lines in the third period of a tie game.
Third-line center Matt DeBlouw made him thankful that he didn’t pull the trigger on that move.
DeBlouw scored with 5:38 remaining in the third to send the Spartans past Wisconsin, 4-3, on Friday at the Kohl Center.
“I was moments from changing it up,” Anastos said. “I’ve got to stay out of my own way.”
Jake Hildebrand stopped 34 shots as the Spartans (8-20-3, 4-10-1 Big Ten) won for the fifth time in their last six games against the Badgers (6-14-7, 1-9-3-1).
Wisconsin outshot Michigan State 37-21 and led in shot attempts 66-42, but the Spartans escaped with a victory, despite what Anastos called a sloppy effort overall.
“I thought we were pretty opportunistic,” Hildebrand said. “We buried the chances we got and were hungry around the net.”
The Spartans led going into the third period, but the Badgers tied it 3-3 on top-line center Cameron Hughes’ fourth goal of the season.
It was the fifth goal in the last two games for the Badgers’ top line of Hughes, Grant Besse and Luke Kunin, who scored the team’s first goal Friday.
Less than two minutes after top-line winger Joe Cox hit the post on a chance to put the Spartans ahead, DeBlouw came through with his second game-winning goal in five games.
“It’s always good to get goals for your team, especially ones that win the game,” said DeBlouw, who also scored the overtime winner against Michigan on Feb. 5. “I’ve been in the right position at the right time.”
The Badgers were left shaking their heads after seeing chance after chance swallowed up by Hildebrand, the All-American who’s seen his GAA soar and his save percentage shrink in a tough senior season.
Late in the second period, the goaltender managed to keep his arm down on the ice while laying across the crease to prevent Wisconsin’s Jedd Soleway from knocking the puck into an otherwise open net.
“I thought we controlled the play in their zone,” Kunin said. “We had chances to score [that] we didn’t finish.”
The Badgers fell to 0-10-2 this season when trailing after two periods and 1-12-6 when allowing three goals or more.
Kunin put Wisconsin ahead 45 seconds into the game, but Ryan Keller answered for Michigan State later in the first period, and Dylan Pavelek and Zach Osburn gave the Spartans a 3-1 lead in the second.
Will Johnson scored a power-play goal later in the second to get the Badgers’ rally started, and Hughes tied it 1:46 into the third.
The fifth-place Spartans increased their lead over the last-place Badgers to six points, with Wisconsin holding two games in hand.
Michigan State won for just the second time in 12 road games this season (2-10).
“I love playing at home, but it’s fun as a team to get a road win,” Hildebrand said. “To come to a different place, have the fans screaming at you and to come away with three points … I think that’s always a great feeling as a team.”