TORONTO, ON – The Toronto Marlies had not played in over a week since they clinched the Eastern Conference Final entering Saturday’s game. They are on a nine game winning streak. The Texas Stars finished their series on Monday, and are seen as the underdogs. Will this be another four and done series, or will it, as many suspect, go the full seven games? This game will start to answer that question.
June 2: vs Texas Stars
With both teams coming out a little tentative, it was the Marlies who eventually got the first shot, giving Mike McKenna the first save. With the Marlies definitely looking a little rusty after only having played four games in 24 days, Andreas Johnsson got a preventable penalty as he tripped up his man.
The Marlies were doing well enough on the first penalty kill of the game, but the Stars were pushing hard. With six seconds left on the PP, Travis Morin put in a shot from the high slot that beat Garret Sparks in the top corner. The goal was immediately called off and went for review. The two leading thoughts were that the referee never saw the puck go in the net, or that Curtis McKenzie was going to get goalie interference for having pushed Martin Marincin into Sparks. On replay, it was clear that the puck went in the net but also appeared clear that it was goalie interference. After some time, it was called a good goal and the Stars went up 1-0 just over six minutes into the game.
With the Marlies getting that kick in the pants, they started to push back. It was Justin Holl that led a play into the Stars’ zone two minutes later, culminating in a nice goal from behind the goal line. Though was originally given to Johnsson, as it was deflected in from of McKenna and in, after review, it was credited to Holl as he banked it in off Reece Scarlett who was blocking Johnsson.
A few minutes later, Carl Grundstrum got two minutes for playing with a broken stick, another preventable penalty for the home team. Halfway through that penalty, McKenzie got a goal of his own when he outskated Marincin off a long pass from Brent Regner. McKenzie went short side and beat Sparks to restore the Stars’ one goal lead.
The Marlies finally got their first power play of an interference call behind the play sent Brian Flynn to the box for two or less. They really only had a single chance that was ruined when the referee stopped the play too early as McKenna did not have control of the puck. The period ended with the Stars up in goals and shots, and the Marlies trailing after a period for the first time since the Utica series.
The second period was halfway over before anything interesting happened. In the first ten minutes of the period, both teams played keep-away and tried to find an advantage. McKenna was not playing well, giving up a lot of rebounds, but the Stars were keeping those rebounds away from the Marlies. On the other end of the ice, Sparks was not playing with the same magic he has been through the majority of the playoffs.
Eight minutes in and the Marlies went on a power play which only lasted 20 seconds. Dmytro Timashov hooked Sheldon Dries when Dries almost got a shorthanded breakaway goal on Sparks, which was his only exciting save of the first two periods. As the penalties ended, the Marlies brought it into the Stars end. Colin Greening passed the puck in front to an open Frederik Gauthier and they tied the game.
This did not last long as the Stars took it into the Marlies’ zone and scored just 23 seconds later. An open Austin Fyten took a pass from Matt Mangene and it was 3-2 Stars. Not content with that, the Stars would get a two-goal lead as Travis Morin buried a rebound off a Justin Dowling shot. The Marlies were now down 4-2 and time was ticking on the period.
While the Marlies were still playing, they were not making use of the McKenna rebounds. Slowing things down, the Stars’ net kept getting knocked off and there were lots of whistles as a result. Then, with a later period push, Chris Mueller tipped in a Ben Smith shot from the corner. That goal came with 15 seconds left in the period and gave the Marlies something to work with for the third period; it also got the crowd back into the game.
The third started with some vigour and that pressure led to the Stars getting the early penalty kill. The Marlies were pretty lacklustre on this penalty as they again hardly took any shots and then missed the rebounds. McKenzie, the Stars’ captain, decided to do something about this and got another shorthanded chance, but Sparks had the save. As the penalty ended, three Marlies took it back into the Stars’ end and Mason Marchment put it in the net behind McKenna off the one-timer from Greening. Suddenly, the Marlies had tied the game with most of the period still to go.
Around the five minute mark, Marincin went in deep with a shot on McKenna and then got his own rebound to score for Toronto’s first lead for the game. Not to be outdone, Dowling took a pass from Morin in their own end and powered down to the other end. He muscled his way past the defense, took a weak shot at Sparks and then buried his own rebound to tie the game back at 5-5. With 14 minutes to go, this was a whole new game.
Now the crowd was buzzing and so were the teams. Everyone could tell that this was championship hockey and not just another game. This was why it was surprising when Roope Hintz took an unnecessary penalty for holding in his own end. With the Stars penalty kill running at perfect, one could assume that the Marlies would not score.
When halfway through the penalty Trevor Moore had to race to the bench to replace his broken stick, one could again assume that the Marlies would not score.
You would be right most of the time to assume this, but Moore was not listening to these assumptions. As he came racing back with a new stick, Mueller saw him open, made the pass, and Moore put it in the net for what would be the game-winning goal.
With 10 minutes left in the game, there was a lot of action still to come. Both goalies actually started to play better, which was nice to see given the high expectations for them entering game one. Two more penalties were assessed giving the Stars a short power play, followed by some 4-on-4, and then a short power play for the Marlies. Both teams had chances, but with the goalies in playoffs mode again, nothing else was going in either net.
With two minutes left, McKenna was pulled and the extra attacker joined the fray. In a surprise move, on the next whistle, the Stars coach did not call a timeout and let his players play. When the Stars later went in offside with 30 seconds left, the Stars then called their timeout. While the Marlies should have received another power play, the referee just let them finish the game.
Due to this, things got out of control as the game ended. After all the pushing and shoving, McKenzie and Holl were both given 10 minute unsportsmanlike misconducts. One would expect that the AHL will let us know before tomorrow’s game two if they are both going to sit that one out.
In the end, while it was an exciting two-way affair, it was not the goalie duel that practically everyone was expecting in game one. Sunday’s game will be very interesting as they two teams that never met in the regular season have already gotten antagonistic. This is the Marlies 10th-straight win and their 13th consecutive playoff home win, which they started in 2017.
Score: Stars 5 – Marlies 6
Shots: Stars 37 – Marlies 34
Penalties: Stars 6 – Marlies 5
Stars goals were scored by Dowling, Fyten, McKenzie and Morin (2). Assists from Dowling (2), Dillon Heatherington, Mangene, McKenna, McKenzie, Morin, John Nyberg and Regner.
Marlies goals were scored by Gauthier, Holl, Marchment, Marincin, Moore and Mueller. Assists from Greening (2), Vincent LoVerde, Mueller (2), Calle Rosen, Smith and Timashov (2).