|(Credit: Texas Stars)|
Captain Curtis McKenzie said, “It wasn’t really what we were looking [for]. It hasn’t happened to us all year, and it stunned us a bit.”
“Our group’s resilient,” said Laxdal, looking ahead to Game 6 already. “We’ve gone through the playoffs here; we haven’t faced an elimination game yet. It’s a different task for us.”
Texas had the first few chances of the game, but Toronto scored on two of their first three shots. The Stars never truly recovered.
“It’s huge,” said Keefe of the quick start. “Especially when you’ve played three games now where offense is so hard to come by.”
Despite some pretty serious seeming transgressions both ways, there was only one penalty called total in the game tonight. Laxdal was diplomatic, “I’m not going to comment on the penalties. I’ll just leave it at that.” However, he did add that his team needs to be better at drawing penalties.
Andreas Johnsson potted his 8th of the playoffs on a breakaway to start the scoring just 92 seconds in. Brent Regner mishandled a puck at the point, sending Johnsson in alone. Dillon Heatherington couldn’t catch him, and it went to 1-0 Toronto.
“When your top player is on a breakaway early and finishes it’s a pretty good sign of what’s to come in the game,” said Keefe. “Certainly when we can skate to the neutral zone it makes everybody’s life a little bit easier.”
Dowling continued, “We started out the shift really well and then it just took a bad hop on Regner there. There’s nothing you can do. The hockey gods weren’t on our side. It’s hard to start the game like that.”
Trevor Moore scored just 47 seconds later, a puck that beat McKenna five hole. The Stars were lucky to make it out of the period down just 2-0 as they were outshot 9-2 at one point and ended the frame down 11-6 on shots. Mike McKenna had issues with rebound control.
Texas got a bit of a spark to start the second, but it was short lived. From the point, Gavin Bayreuther bombed his second of the series and third of the playoffs. With the lead cut to one, the overcapacity crowd was re-energized. Toronto took the air right out of the building with Colin Greening’s goal. Greening picked up a pass from Chris Mueller and whipped it past McKenna. The Texas defense seemed to have almost lost track of the puck as it initially struck Greening before coming to Mueller for the pass.
Defenseman Calle Rosen stepped up to end the second period strong for the Marlies. First, he absolutely deked the pants off Justin Dowling to get an open lane for the fourth goal. The fifth came as he skated in nearly untouched from his own blue line and rifled one in.
The third period would see Landon Bow jump into game action for the first time since April. McKenna would end the night with 17 saves on 22 shots.
“Mike has been outstanding for us in the playoffs,” said Laxdal. “He’s been our MVP so far. He’s given it every game, and we needed to get him a break in there. It was just to change the momentum of the game and kind of change the mindset of our group.”
Bow only saw five shots in the final frame, letting up one to Carl Grundstrom in the 11th minute. It was quickly followed by a rebound tap-in by Sheldon Dries, his 9th of the postseason.
Texas had a chance to make it 6-3 with just over four minutes left as Travis Morin scored a goal that was immediately waved off for being played with a high stick. The crowd was incensed, as was the Texas bench. The officials explained the goal to Laxdal but refused to speak to Curtis McKenzie or any other Texas player afterwards.
The Stars, down 6-2, did not opt to pull Bow for the extra attacker with the four goal deficit. With three, that might have happened, but four seemed insurmountable.
Texas heads to Toronto tomorrow for Tuesday’s Game 6 at Ricoh Coliseum.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Laberge, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta, Robertson, Nyberg, Desrosiers, Caamano (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 6,863, a sellout. Texas solid a decent number of standing room tickets, so it’s unclear why the number wasn’t higher than the usual sellout number. Building record is from Game 5 of the Finals in 2010 at 7,054.
All reports from players indicated the ice conditions were great and certainly better than Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Toronto - June 9 2018