Toronto Claims Series Lead with Tight 2-1 Victory Over Texas

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Toronto pushed back tonight in Cedar Park with another tight 2-1 game, this time ending in favor of the Marlies. With the win, Toronto takes a 2-1 series lead and regains home ice advantage.

“It was a hard fought game out there,” said Texas head coach Derek Laxdal. “They really shut us down offensively. We didn’t get a lot of chances in the game and when we did get some chances, Sparks made some good saves.”

When Texas had success in games 1 and 2, they were clogging up neutral ice. Tonight, the Marlies had a bit more free rein in that regard. Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe noted, “I just thought we spent a lot of time on their half of the ice. We got to the neutral zone a lot better today. As a result, it took the heat off our defending a little bit as well.”

It was a wide open game in terms of officiating as the refs put away the whistles almost entirely. Curtis McKenzie took the only penalty of the game late in the third, even though Texas and Toronto could have easily earned multiple power plays throughout the contest.

“It was game 3 in the Finals and the officiating was almost like game 7, just letting the guys play,” said Laxdal. “I thought we struggled with some of the non-calls our way. We talked about channeling that emotion and just playing whistle to whistle. If you get the call, you get the call. But you’ve got to work for the call.”

Brent Regner, who had a good night despite the loss, said he “would rather play with 1 or 2 penalties a game” just to keep the flow going.

Almost like period one of a new series, Texas and Toronto seemed to be feeling each other out in the opening frame here. It didn’t last too long though. The Stars had a few good breaks that they couldn’t get to go. Colin Markison had the first chance, and Curtis McKenzie followed up with one of his own a few minutes later. It was a relatively low-shooting period from both teams, as the Marlies topped the shots 7-5.

The scoring dam broke in the second period quite early. Sheldon Dries scored his league-tying 8th of the playoffs off a zippy pass from Remi Elie. Dries collected the puck at the blue line and drove in alone, sniping one high glove on Garret Sparks for the 1-0 score.

Dries recounted the play, “I got hit in the corner, got knocked down and lost my stick. By the time I got it up ice, Remi had it on his stick, threw it across. I was trying to beat their D and that’s kind of a spot I like to pick. Luckily I hit it.”

Chris Mueller, who had been kneed earlier in the game by Reece Scarlett and didn’t earn a call, evened things up just three minutes later. It was a deft play by Andreas Johnsson to pass the puck around the back of the net to Mueller, open on the left wing side, for the easy one-timer. Johnsson and the first line had not scored a point in the series yet but opened their account on that play. Keefe called the pass a “big-time play” for his club.

The Texas fourth line got victimized for the go-ahead goal with blown coverage on the left point giving Calle Rosen a wide open lane to release his second of the playoffs. Joel L’Esperance got pulled down lower than he should have been on the play and didn’t get to the point in time to disrupt the shot. McKenna was screened by both his own men and Toronto on the shot as well.

““I haven’t watched it back yet but it was the kind of goal that we want to have,” said Keefe. “We drove the puck down in the offensive zone; we were able to change sides, get it up to the top. A lot of traffic at the net.”

The Stars worked to even the score in the third, but they couldn’t get anything to go. Garret Sparks earned star honors despite a relatively light workload on the night of just 20 shots. However, nine of those came in the final frame.

Texas did get a chance with the empty net and decided to send out the Dries, Dickinson, Elie line for the 6-on-5.

“I thought that group played well tonight,” said Laxdal. “There’s no reason why we couldn’t put them out there for the last 40 seconds. They’ve earned the right to be out there and I feel very confident putting those guys out there in those situations.”

The Stars take their shot at evening the series again on Thursday night at 7 PM in Cedar Park.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Gurianov, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta, Robertson, Nyberg, Desrosiers, Caamano (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 6,863, a sellout.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Toronto - June 5 2018