Grand Rapids Wins Game 3 on Home Ice, Stars Lead Series 2-1
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Rookie Brendan Ranford scored his league-leading sixth goal of the playoffs, extending his goal streak to five games, but the Texas Stars lost 5-2 to the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game 3 on Tuesday night at Van Andel Arena. Texas has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference Semi-Finals.
The Stars got off to a quick start and began pressuring goalie Petr Mrazek. However, the Griffins turned the scales in their favor as Tomas Jurco won a battle behind the net and scored on a wrap-around, beating starter Jack Campbell to the right post at 7:06. Jurco potted home his second goal of the night on the power play at 13:44, taking a cross-ice pass from Riley Sheahan and scoring a back-door goal for a 2-0 lead. Stars rookie Matej Stransky came close to putting the visitors on the scoreboard, but his tip of a Radek Faksa shot rang off the right post.
It was 3-0 Griffins a mere 25 seconds into the second period as Teemu Pulkkinen made a behind the back pass to Andrej Nestrasil, who then beat Campbell with a wrist shot to the blocker side. Again the post was the Stars’ nemesis as captain Maxime Fortunus unleashed a vicious shot from the top of the right circle, but it clanged off the inside of the right post and went parallel to the goal line into the far corner. Pulkkinen then made it 4-0 with a one-timer from the right faceoff circle, tucking his shot just inside the left post. At that point, Texas pulled goalie Jack Campbell, replacing him with backup Cristopher Nilstorp. The Stars kept attacking and created two golden scoring chances, only to be denied. First it was Toby Petersen, who took a back-door pass from Faksa and was stoned by the right pad of Mrazek. Then Scott Glennie picked up a rebound from a goal-mouth scramble and scored on an open net, only to have the referee waive the goal off as there was contact with Mrazek, but no penalty on the play. Once again the Griffins made the Stars pay for failing to score as Jurco was again in the right spot to tap home at the right post into an open net as the puck rolled away from a group behind the net going the other direction. Texas out-shot Grand Rapids 13-8 in the second period, and 25-19 through 40 minutes, but trailed 5-0.
Jack Campbell returned to the net for the start of the third period and the armor of Mrazek finally cracked. Justin Dowling made a clever pass to send Mike Hedden in alone and Hedden faked out the goalie before scoring on a forehand shot to the blocker side at 2:24. It was Hedden’s third goal of the playoffs, assisted by Dowling and Stransky, and it ended Mrazek’s shutout bid. Just over two minutes later the Stars scored again. Travis Morin got the puck the Curtis McKenzie, who then made a beautiful centering pass out of the left wing corner to connect with Brendan Ranford, who cut to the net and slammed the puck through the legs of the Griffins’ netminder to make it 5-2 at 5:47. Ranford’s Calder Cup Playoff-leading sixth goal extended his franchise playoff record goal streak to five games and it set a new postseason club record for longest point streak at 6 games. Minutes later, Campbell made a stellar one-on-one save to deny Ryan Sproul, keeping the Stars within three. Texas had several more quality scoring chances, out-shooting Grand Rapids 12-3 in the third period and even pulled Campbell for an extra attacker for the final four minutes of play, but they could not get any closer and lost for the first time in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Petr Mrazek (4-3) bounced back from consecutive losses to stop 35 saves on 37 shots, recording his fourth win of the playoffs in goal for Grand Rapids. Jack Campbell (2-1) suffered the first loss of his professional postseason career, making 15 saves on 19 shots in 44:08 of action for Texas. Cristopher Nilstorp (3-0) allowed one goal on three shots in 11:37 of relief in the second period and took a no-decision. The Stars out-shot the Griffins 37-22 and went 0-for-4 on the power play, while Grand Rapids was 1-for-6 with the man-advantage.
Playing in the first back-to-back of the series, Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Texas Stars and the Grand Rapids Griffins will be on Wednesday, May 14th at 6:00 p.m. CT at Van Andel Arena. If necessary, Texas will return to Cedar Park Center for Game 6 on Sunday, May 18th for a 7:00 face off. Texas Stars’ 2014 Calder Cup playoff ticket packages are on sale now! Reserve your seats for all Calder Cup playoff games at Cedar Park Center at a discounted rate. For more information on Texas Stars season tickets call (512) GO-STARS (467-8277) or visit www.TexasStarsHockey.com.
Photo credit: Mark Newman/Grand Rapids