Heading into the Calder Cup Finals, Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal compared the Toronto Marlies to a 2019 Corvette and his team to a 1966 Mustang. Game 1 at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto on Saturday was quite the wild ride.
Texas jumped out to a 4-2 lead, but the Marlies roared back for a 6-5 victory and a 1-0 series lead in the AHL's championship series. Game 2 is Sunday afternoon in Toronto.
"Give them credit for battling back. It's not too often you see a 6-5 game in the final series," said Texas coach Derek Laxdal. "It's Game 1. We get a chance to see Toronto, and they get a chance to see us. I am sure both coaches are going to make adjustments, and we'll get ready for [Sunday]."
The Marlies outscored the Stars 4-1 over the final 20:15 of the game, cutting the Texas lead to 4-3 with 15 seconds left in the second period and then outscoring Texas 3-1 in the third period to win their tenth straight game in the postseason.
Travis Morin scored two goals for the Stars, and Curtis McKenzie, Justin Dowling, and Austin Fyten also scored. Mike McKenna made 28 saves.
Chris Mueller tallied one goal and two assists for the Marlies and Trevor Moore's power-play goal with 9:57 left in the third period snapped a 5-5 tie and held up as the deciding goal in the game. Garret Sparks stopped 32 of 37 shots for the Marlies.
After withstanding an early push from Toronto, the Stars scored on their first two power plays in the game to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Morin scored from the slot with just six seconds remaining on the first power play to put Texas up 1-0 at 6:19 of the first. The Marlies tied it at the 8:23 mark on a goal by defenseman Justin Holl, whose shot from the right corner bounced into the net off Stars defenseman Reece Scarlett. The Stars regained the lead 12:46 into the game when defenseman Brent Regner set up McKenzie on a breakaway and the Texas captain beat Sparks with a shot from the left circle.
The Marlies tied the game at 10:57 of the second. Colin Greening gathered up a loose puck behind the Texas net and set up Fredrik Gauthier, who scored from the slot to make it a 2-2 game. But just 28 seconds later the Stars had a 3-2 lead after Matt Mangene set up Fyten, who scored from the left circle. Texas pushed the lead to 4-2 at 17:48 of the second when Dowling made a great spin move to put a shot on net and Morin scored on the rebound. But less than two minutes later the Marlies cut the lead to 4-3 when Toronto captain Ben Smith centered the puck from the left corner, and Mueller deflected it past McKenna with 15 seconds left in the period.
The Stars had a great chance to extend the lead early in the third, but Sparks stopped McKenzie on a shorthanded breakaway and moments later - with the two teams playing five-on-five - Mason Marchment scored on the rush to tie the game 4-4 at the 2:46 mark. Martin Marincin scored from close range a little more than two minutes later to put the Marlies up 5-4 at 4:55 of the third. Dowling scored on a great individual effort on the rush to tie the game at the 6:10 mark.
But Moore scored the game-winner midway through the third, returning to play after getting a new stick from the bench after his was broken, taking a pass from Mueller and scoring from the slot to put the Marlies ahead 6-5. And it stayed that way until the final horn and now it is onto to Game 2 Sunday.
The Marlies have not lost at home since Mar. 24 and have won 13 straight games on home ice, including their last five during the regular season and all eight in the playoffs.
Texas lost for the first time in the postseason when scoring the first goal of the game (8-1).
Texas is now 5-2 when leading after two periods in the playoffs.
Game 1 winners are 62-19 all-time (.765) in Calder Cup Finals series.
Texas captain Curtis McKenzie now ranks second in AHL playoff scoring with 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in 16 games.
Texas outshot the Toronto 37-34.
Gavin Bayreuther led Texas with 5 shots on goal.
The Stars were 2-4 on the power play and 4-5 on the penalty kill.
Travis Morin - Justin Dowling - Curtis McKenzie
Remi Elie - Sheldon Dries - Bria Flynn
Jason Dickinson - Roope Hintz - Colin Markison
Austin Fyten - Joel L'Esperance - Matt Mangene
Dillon Heatherington - Brent Regner
Andrew Bodnarchuk - Reece Scarlett
Gavin Bayreuther - John Nyberg
Calder Cup Finals (Toronto leads 1-0)
Game 1 - Sat., June 2 - Texas at Toronto: Marlies 6, Stars 5
Game 2 - Sun., June 3 - Texas at Toronto, 3:00 p.m. CT (NHL Network)
Game 3 - Tue., June 5 - Toronto at Texas, 7:00 p.m. CT (Fox Sports Southwest, NHL Network)
Game 4 - Thu., June 7 - Toronto at Texas, 7:00 p.m. CT (Fox Sports Southwest, NHL Network)
*Game 5 - Sat., June 9 - Toronto at Texas, 7:00 p.m. CT (Fox Sports Southwest, NHL Network)
*Game 6 - Tue., June 12 - Texas at Toronto, 6:00 p.m. CT (NHL Network)
*Game 7 - Thu., June 14 - Texas at Toronto, 6:00 p.m. CT (NHL Network)
Photo credit: Toronto Marlies
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.