The Stars had no illusions coming into their series against the Toronto Marlies. The Maples Leafs affiliate had not been defeated coming into the series. Further, they had yet to trail in the playoffs, sweeping the Milwaukee Admirals and Chicago Wolves in the process.
Even still, when the Marlies handed Texas their first home loss of the postseason last Friday, it was a more than a little disconcerting. The Stars had volleyed 50 shots on goalie Drew MacIntyre and he had stopped all but one.
"He played good," said Chris Mueller, who had Texas' lone goal in the loss. "We need to penetrate more. We had a lot of shots from the outside. We gave them grade A chances and a lot of our chances weren't. When you give them those, they're going to score."
The 5-1 final made things look worse than it probably was. Two of those goals were scored on an empty net. The key to the win for Toronto was a 13 second stretch in the second that saw them score two quick goals off defensive zone mistakes. That put the game out of reach for Texas as the Marlies clogged the lanes and slowed play through the neutral zone, usually Texas' bread and butter.
Things looked grim in Game 2 when the Stars managed the first six shots but allowed the first goal on the Marlies first shot off a turnover by Jyrki Jokipakka. The Texas power play roared to life toward the end of the frame and gave a 1-1 tie after twenty. Team speed kicked in for the Stars in the second period as a mad rush up the ice by Mike Hedden led to a Scott Glennie goal that earned the first lead of the series for Texas. Some frenetic moments ensued but the Stars walked away with a 6-3 victory.
The series now shifts to Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto where the Marlies are still undefeated. They have outscored visitors 10-3 and have two shutouts in three games there. In addition, MacIntyre has allowed five or more goals just three times this season before Monday night. In each case, he returned with a win in the next game, averaging a 1.67 goals against average and .935 save percentage.
"We're not going to get fifty every night," added coach Willie Desjardins. "We've got to find a way to win with fewer shots."
Game 3 is tonight in Toronto with a 6 PM Central start time. Game 4 is tomorrow night, and Game 5 is Saturday afternoon. Game 6, if necessary, will be Monday in Cedar Park. Game 7 would be Tuesday.
Texas volleyed 50 shots on Toronto Marlies goaltender Drew MacIntyre and he had the answer for all but one in the opening contest of the Western Conference Finals tonight in Cedar Park. In the game, the Marlies were outshot 50-19 overall and 21-4 in the final frame as the Stars tried to dig themselves out of a 3-0 hole to start the period.
The game hinged on a 13 second sequence in the middle frame. Toronto scored twice in quick succession to put the game out of reach for the Stars.
Chris Mueller said, "We had huge mistakes end up in the back of our net."
"They had good structure," agreed Desjardins. "We turned it over twice. You have to give them credit on their structure. That's why we turned it over and you have to give them credit."
The Stars would get a late power play goal from Mueller but it wasn't enough as two empty netters made a close game look like a blowout with a 5-1 final.
With the win, Toronto moves to a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs. They have yet to trail in any game in that stretch either. Texas suffered its first home loss of the postseason as well.
Two goals each from Scott Glennie and Brett Ritchie among 52 total Texas shots gave the Stars a 6-3 win at the Cedar Park Center to even their series with Toronto at a game a piece. Over two games, the Stars have put 102 shots on the Marlies netminder, Drew MacIntyre.
"We knew coming into the game that if we did what we did the game before, we'd have some success," said Ritchie. "We turned [MacIntyre] into a .900 save percentage goalie this game. I think if we can do that we'll have a pretty good chance of winning."
Desjardins expanded, "It was tight the whole way. It doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you get the win."
The win stopped several streaks for the Marlies, including an undefeated playoffs record and a streak of over a month in which the club has not trailed at any point.
"It's huge to break their streak," said Ritchie. "They might have some doubt in their mind but it's just one game."
Justin Dowling is out with no timetable for return. Jack Campbell continues to be out. Desjardins has not ruled him out for the series, but he hasn't practiced with the team since injury and did not travel to Toronto. John Klingberg is out for the season with hip surgery. Toby Petersen is also out after blocking a shot with his foot in Grand Rapids