CEDAR PARK, Texas -- The Texas Stars have their backs against the wall in the Calder Cup Finals after stumbling in a crucial Game 5 on Saturday night in Cedar Park and falling, 6-2, to the Toronto Marlies.
The Marlies lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, and with the series now shifting to Toronto, the Stars will need to win two straight on the road to bring home the Calder Cup.
"We've won two in a row a lot this year. We're good on the road, too," said Texas center Justin Dowling.
"We like when our backs are against the wall. We play better when we are desperate. Obviously, we have our backs against the wall and we are desperate right now, so we are going to go in there and see what happens."
The Marlies jumped on the Stars early Saturday, scoring two quick goals in the first 2:19 of the game to take a 2-0 lead. Texas cut the lead to one early in the second, but the Marlies struck with two goals a short time later to extend the lead to 4-1.
"All of a sudden you look up, and it's 2-0. It's kind of a kick in the stomach," Dowling said. "But we're a resilient group. We've played these games before, but tonight just wasn't our night."
Gavin Bayreuther and Sheldon Dries scored goals for Texas. Mike McKenna played the first two periods in goal, stopping 17 of 22 shots. Landon Bow played the third period and stopped six of seven shots.
Andreas Johnsson had one goal and two assists, Calle Rosen scored two goals, and Garret Sparks stopped 23 shots for the Marlies, who host Game 6 on Tuesday and are one win away from the first Calder Cup in franchise history.
"For us to come out with that kind of start felt really good, and it fueled us throughout the game," said Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe. "But we recognize how challenging it is going to be at home, but we like that we are going home with a chance to win."
The Marlies struck for two goals in 47 seconds early in the first period to grab a 2-0 lead. After Texas defenseman Brent Regner had the puck bounce on him while attempting a shot from the point, Johnsson grabbed the loose puck and scored on a breakaway at the 1:32 mark to put the Marlies up 1-0. Trevor Moore then tallied from close range to make it a 2-0 game at the 2:19 mark. The Marlies, who were faster and hungrier on the puck, had the Stars on their heels for most of the first period.
"The team was into it early on, and it hurts more when you get stung early on, and it's kind of a kick in the stomach. Then they score that second one, and you are chasing the game," said Stars coach Derek Laxdal.
The Stars got on the board when Bayreuther scored on a laser beam from the point to slice the Toronto lead to 2-1. That goal brought the H-E-B center to life and gave the Stars some momentum, which they rode to create some good pressure and chances over the next few minutes.
But the Marlies then countered with two goals in 62 seconds to stem the Texas momentum and extend their lead. Colin Greening scored from the slot at the 7:43 mark and Rosen scored a slick goal off the rush, weaving his way down the slot and beating McKenna with a wrist shot at 8:45 of the second to make it 4-1. Rosen struck again at 17:07 of the second to make it a 5-1 game.
Carl Grundstrom scored on a two-on-one at 11:07 of the third to give Toronto a 6-1 lead and Dries scored for Texas 15 seconds later to make it 6-2.
And now it is back to Toronto, where the Stars need to win two straight to secure the Calder Cup.
"Going into Toronto, there is no pressure. We are the underdogs. We are not supposed to win, according to the media," Laxdal said. "We are going to try to prove some people wrong. That's our goal.
"I believe in our group 100 percent. They are in the finals for a reason, and this is just another challenge. Our goal is to win Tuesday and get it to a Game 7."
This is the 21st time a Calder Cup Finals best-of-seven series has been tied 2-2 heading into Game 5. In the 20 previous series, the winner of the fifth game went on to capture the Calder Cup 19 of 20 times.
Texas will be looking to become the first team ever to win Games 6 and 7 of the Calder Cup Finals on the road.
This was the first time in the series that a game was decided by more than one goal.
Toronto outshot the Stars 30-25.
There was only one penalty called in the game and it was a cross-checking minor on Texas captain Curtis McKenzie with 6:28 left in the game.
Attendance Saturday at H-E-B Center was 6,863, a sellout. All five games of the series have been sellouts.
Travis Morin - Justin Dowling - Curtis McKenzie
Jason Dickinson - Sheldon Dries - Remi Elie
Denis Gurianov - Roope Hintz - Brian Flynn
Austin Fyten - Joel L'Esperance - Colin Markison
Dillon Heatherington - Brent Regner
Andrew Bodnarchuk - Reece Scarlett
Gavin Bayreuther - Matt Mangene
Calder Cup Finals (Toronto leads 3-2)
Game 1 - Sat., June 2 - Texas at Toronto: Marlies 6, Stars 5
Game 2 - Sun., June 3 - Texas at Toronto: Stars 2, Marlies 1
Game 3 - Tue., June 5 - Toronto at Texas: Marlies 2, Stars 1
Game 4 - Thu., June 7 - Toronto at Texas: Stars 3, Marlies 2
Game 5 - Sat., June 9 - Toronto at Texas: Marlies 6, Stars 2
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)
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.