|Derek Meech in the handshake line|
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
"You have to prepare for seven and want to win it in six," said Coach Desjardins. "We didn't expect this. They started out so quick, and it looked like it would be a long hard night. And then we just got a couple. It's funny how they go in."
The Griffins scored on the first shot of the game after a giveaway in the neutral zone came back to bite the Stars. Texas beared down and scored the next seven. The total set a record for Texas Stars goals in a single playoff game.
Desjardins continued, "To get better you have to be pushed. This series pushed us. We're a better team now than we were at the start of the series. What we had to go through in this series helped us."
Dustin Jeffrey had two goals and an assist, Derek Meech had one goal and one assist. Radek Faksa collected his first and second goals of the playoffs. Ten Texas players recorded a point in the game, including Cristopher Nilstorp. In addition to stopping 23 of 24 shots, he picked up the second assist on Dustin Jeffrey's first goal of the night.
Texas will play the Toronto Marlies starting on Friday night at the Cedar Park Center. Full game schedule will be posted shortly.
Before many had found their seats for the game, Grand Rapids was already on the board. A turnover by rookie Jyrki Jokipakka came back down at Nilstorp for the opening goal in the first shot of the game. Teemu Pulkkinen got the tally just 36 seconds into the frame.
"It's never easy when the first shot of the game goes in, but we just ignored it and responded well," said Derek Meech.
The Stars roared back with two quick goals. A solid forecheck by Kevin Henderson sent the puck on net. Petr Mrazek directed it into the slot, and Chris Mueller collected it for the tying goal.
Just over a minute later, Dustin Jeffrey broke in in a two on one and decided to take the shot himself. He poked it in after waiting out Mrazek for the 2-1 lead. The crowd blew up.
Derek Meech called the play, "These guys like to trap, so I got skating there. Jeffrey has good instincts and he saw the hole there. I waited just enough time and he was able to get in on the net and saw the goalie was cheating."
For good measure, Meech would extend the lead against his former team with a blast from the right wing point to make it 3-1. Several layers of traffic prevented Mrazek from seeing the puck.
"It was a bit of a cluster down there... of hockey players. I got a great pass from Hedden, a great heads-up play. I just tried to put it in the right spot."
Texas out shot the Griffins 13-7 in the period.
The Stars continued their offensive in the second period. Radek Faksa picked his first professional playoff goal on a bit of a broken play. Some confusion in the slot generated the chance for Faksa, which set the score at 4-1. The goal also ended the night for Petr Mrazek.
"[The fourth line] was so good the whole series," said Desjardins. "I was able to play them against the top line. They did a great job and were as big as any part of the game."
Brett Ritchie added, "Faksa just keeps getting better every game."
Tom McCollum came in and had to weather 10 Texas shots in the remainder of the period, including a Stars 5-on-3 power play. If it weren't for McCollum, the score could have been much worse after forty. Shots were 14-5 for Texas in the middle stanza.
Heading into the final period, Ritchie said, "We just said that we're going to play it like a 0-0 game. We're going to play hard. We stay pretty even keel."
The Stars weren't done yet. Radek Faksa scored his second of the playoffs and the game off the pass from Matej Stransky for the 5-1 lead less than three minutes in.
Jeff Blashill pulled McCollum for the extra skater with 13 minutes left in the third. Andrej Nestrasil's slashing penalty ended that gambit and gave Texas a power play, the first in a series. Brett Ritchie potted his first goal of the playoffs on the power play, a minor to Emmerton. Ritchie was playing in his first game in over a month after sustaining a lower body injury.
"I didn't feel comfortable around the net at the start of the game, but for that one to go in, it bounced me back to where I was before I got hurt"
Desjardins commented, "Ritchie looked fresh. I was worried and I didn't know where he would be at."
Dustin Jeffrey polished it all off with a shorthanded, empty net goal with six minutes still left to play. The rest was all formalities as the two teams awaited the final horn.
Game 1 against Toronto is scheduled for Friday at 7:30 PM.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Labrie, Guptill, Robinson, Troock, Peters, Vause, Wrenn, Byström (scratched)
Klingberg, Dowling, Campbell, Petersen (injury)
Today's attendance was 4,010.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Grand Rapids - May 18 2014