|Maxime Fortunus (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
"We knew it was a first place game, so there would be a lot of emotions in it," said Curtis McKenzie, who scored a goal in the game. "They're a big tough team. We tried to stay to our discipline. That's not really our identity."
McKenzie also added a fight among a combined 94 penalty minutes for the two clubs, each first place in their respective divisions.
"It was a close game early," added Coach Desjardins, referring to the 1-0 score after one. "They've played three in three, which is a tough thing to do. We had lots of advantages but even with those, they are a tough team and they play you hard."
Fortunus agreed, "We knew that coming into a three-in-three they weren't going to fall down and let us walk all over them."
The power play got back to business as usual tonight with a 3-for-11 performance, bringing their mark over the last three games to 4-for-24. It's still not where they have been historically on the season, but it's a good start against the top team in the North Division.
The win also insures that Texas didn't lose three in a row at home, which would clearly fly in the face of their stated goal to improve their play at home this season.
"We've been saying since the beginning of the season that we wanted to win at home. It's our turf and we have to get all the points we can at home."
Cristopher Nilstorp was one of several Stars to return from injury in the game. The Swedish goalie put up a 19-save shutout performance.
The Stars opened the first period with back-to-back fruitless power plays. They did manage to establish their style of play and dictate the tempo of the game.
Texas opened the scoring with five minutes left int he frame as Justin Dowling, back from injury, faked going for the wraparound and instead, slid the puck out front for Mike Hedden. Hedden deposited the puck for the 1-0 lead. Derek Meech picked up the second assist.
Toronto found itself in penalty trouble early in the first, taking overlapping tripping and roughing calls. Texas needed the 5-on-3 power play to activate and got the goal they needed from their captain.
"It was nice for us," said McKenzie. "We'd had a lot of chances but pucks weren't going in. It was a sigh of relief to get one on the net there. That 5-on-3 opened it up for us."
The 2-0 goal found twine glove side high on Drew MacIntyre through traffic. Travis Morin and Chris Mueller assisted. Fortunus would go again just a few minutes later, but his second attempt was tipped in by McKenzie for the 3-0 lead. Colton Sceviour also assisted on the play.
Play started to come unraveled for the Marlies at that point with three fights in the middle frame, all after the McKenzie goal. A slash by Devane put Texas back on the man advantage and set up Fortunus's second of the night with under a minute left in the second. This one was assisted by Morin and Sceviour.
The Stars continued to get power plays as Toronto continued to slash, trip, board and interfere. The period even added a fight as Ross and Button tangled. Ross kept going after the referee called the fight off and earned a misconduct. Korbinian Holzer also picked up a misconduct on a later play for unsportsmanlike conduuct. Early in the game he had gotten a minor for the same thing after slapping his stick to congratulate the referee on calling a penalty on Texas. Of course, that negated the penalty and surely upset his coaching staff.
Chris Mueller put the cherry on top with his 21st and 22nd of the year in the third period. The first came on a nice two on one with Scott Glennie and the second on the power play 6-on-4 with a delayed call coming.
The Stars turn around quickly to play the Barons tomorrow before the Super Bowl with a 1:00 PM start.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Ranford, Wrenn, Montgomery (scratch)
Petersen, Nemeth, Campbell, Vause (injury)
Tonight's attendance was 6,068.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Toronto - February 1 2014