A point shot through traffic by Calle Rosen turned out to be the difference Tuesday night as the Toronto Marlies secured a 2-1 win over the Texas Stars at the H-E-B Center in Cedar Park, taking a 2-1 series lead in the Calder Cup Finals.
Game 4 in the best-of-seven series is Thursday night, again in Cedar Park.
“Toronto was the better team early on, and as the game went along, we started to find our legs a little bit,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “They really shut us down offensively. We didn’t get a lot of chances in the game, and when we did get chances, (Garret) Sparks made some good saves. We hit the post at the seven-minute mark in the third period, but we didn’t generate a lot of offense.”
In a game similar to the Stars’ Game 6 overtime win against Rockford in the Western Conference finals, the referees appeared to be more than willing to let the teams play. Only one penalty was called — a trip on Stars captain Curtis McKenzie with six minutes left in the game.
The Stars killed off the penalty but weren’t able to find an equalizing goal with their net empty and six skaters on the ice. Laxdal said his team needs to work on channeling the frustration from not getting whistles into playing better on the ice.
“You can’t worry about getting calls or anything like that,” Stars defenseman Brent Regner said. “You just have to keep playing through. It’s better than stalling the game with a bunch of penalties. I’d rather play with one or two penalties a game.”
After a scoreless first period, Sheldon Dries opened up the scoring with a top-corner wrister less than a minute into the second period, beating Toronto goalie Sparks’ glove. Dries said that he loves to shoot and has been looking to score more in these playoffs.
“I got hit in our corner, got knocked down and lost my stick, so I had to pick it up, and by the time I got up ice, Remi had it on his stick and threw it over,” Dries said. “I just tried to beat their D, and that’s a spot I like to pick, that far side, so luckily I hit it tonight.”
But the Marlies’ Chris Mueller had a quick answer exactly three minutes later to tie the score at 1-1. He found a loose puck as he came out from behind the net and roofed it past Stars goalie Mike McKenna.
The Marlies dominated the puck after the goal, eventually leading up to Rosen’s point shot, which ended up being the game winner.
“It’s two good teams that aren’t going to get rattled, and I really liked that about our team today,” Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe said. “That’s one of the things that you’re always worried about when you’re playing on the road, is when the home team scores first, things can snowball and get away from you. But our guys just kept working, kept playing and scored a big goal after that and didn’t look back.”
With Toronto regaining home-ice advantage, Games 4 and 5 become crucial for Texas to not face an elimination-game scenario in Game 6 back in Toronto. The Stars have trailed a series only once these playoffs.
“They’re a really good neutral zone team,” Regner said. “They come through the neutral zone really fast, and we need to counter that and not turn the puck over on the blue lines, and we need to take it to them. Credit them, they outshot us in their own building, and we’ve got to bring it on Thursday.”
CALDER CUP FINALS
Texas Stars vs. Toronto Marlies
Game 1: Toronto 6, Texas 5
Game 2: Texas 2, Toronto 1
Game 3: Toronto 2, Texas 1
Game 4: Thursday, 7 p.m., H-E-B Center
Game 5: Saturday, 7 p.m., H-E-B Center
Game 6*: June 12, 6 p.m., Toronto
Game 7*: June 14, 6 p.m., Toronto
* If necessary