Stars Hand Marlies Their First Home Loss of the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs
TORONTO, ON – Travis Morin’s goal with 8:46 left in regulation broke a 2-2 tie and lifted the Texas Stars to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Marlies in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night at Ricoh Coliseum. The Stars now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1, with Game 4 set for Thursday night in Toronto.
There were few high quality scoring chances in the first period, but the Marlies were able to capitalize on an offensive zone faceoff win to strike first blood. Kenny Ryan won the draw back to T.J. Brennan and the Toronto defenseman stepped up and ripped a slap shot off the inside of Texas goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp’s blocker and into the net at 9:16 for the only goal of the period.
The Stars answered early in the second period to tie the game. Defenseman Patrik Nemeth blocked a Marlies rush at the Texas blue line, passed up the left wing to rookie Taylor Peters and then was on the receiving end of Peters’ drop pass to blast his one-timer by Toronto goalie Drew MacIntyre at 3:16. It was Nemeth’s first career Calder Cup Playoff goal and the assist was Peter’s first pro playoff point. Both goaltenders were called upon to make big saves as the period progressed and each kept out everything sent their way.
Texas came out firing early in the third period, bombarding the Toronto goal with shots. The pressure paid off as Kevin Henderson redirected a pass from Brett Ritchie off the back of MacIntyre and into the net at 6:59 for a 2-1 Stars’ lead. It was Henderson’s first goal of the playoffs and was assisted by Ritchie and Chris Mueller. The Marlies answered back at 10:15 as Brennan scored his second goal of the evening, one-timing a Peter Holland pass from the high slot up under the crossbar to tie the game at two. A mere 59 seconds after Brennan’s goal, reigning AHL MVP Travis Morin had the perfect response. On a play started by Jamie Oleksiak, who intercepted a pass at the Texas blue line, the Stars’ defenseman raced up the left wing and fired a pass across to the trailing Brendan Ranford as Morin was driving the net. Ranford had space to unleash a hard shot that MacIntyre got a piece of, but the puck rolled behind the goaltender and was headed towards the open net when Morin beat two Toronto defenders and MacIntyre to the puck and slammed in home at 11:14. It was Morin’s fourth goal of the playoffs, assisted by Ranford and Oleksiak, and it turned out to be the eventual game-winning goal. The Marlies forced several strong saves from Nilstorp in the final minutes of regulation, but Texas hung on for a huge 3-2 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
Cristopher Nilstorp (7-2) finished the game with 20 saves on 22 shots and was named the game’s third star as he earned his seventh win of the playoffs in goal for Texas. Drew MacIntyre (8-2) stopped 27-of-30 shots faced as he suffered his second-straight defeat in net for Toronto. The Stars out-shot the Marlies 30-22 and both teams went 0-for-3 on the power play.
Note: Chris Mueller had his four-game goal streak snapped in Game 3, but his assist on Henderson’s third period goal extended his point streak to five games. Toronto forward Peter Holland had his six-game goal streak ended as well, but had an assist on T.J. Brennan’s second goal to extend his current point streak to seven games.
The Texas Stars and Toronto Marlies are back in action on Thursday, May 29th at 6:00 p.m. CT for Game 4 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals at Ricoh Coliseum. If necessary, Games 6 & 7 will be back at Cedar Park Center on Monday, June 2nd and Tuesday, June 3rd, both at 7:30 p.m. CT. Texas Stars season ticket packages for the 2014-15 season are on sale now. For more information, call (512) GO-STARS (467-8277) or visit www.TexasStarsHockey.com.
Photo credit: Graig Abel/Toronto Marlies