The Texas Stars got off to a slow start for a second straight game, and it cost them. The Stars fell behind 2-0 in the first period and were never able to catch up, falling 4-1 to the Rockford IceHogs in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals Saturday night at Cedar Park Center. The Stars trail 2-0 in the best-of-five series, which now shifts to Rockford for the remaining games.
“It’s really kind of mind-boggling with the slow starts we’ve had the past two games,” said Texas coach Derek Laxdal. “We really haven’t been a slow-starting team all year but give Rockford credit because they’ve had good starts. We probably didn’t find our legs until five minutes into the second period. We’ve got to find that urgency right from the start Wednesday in Rockford and try to make this series 2-1.”
The Stars now face the task of winning three straight games – all on the road – to advance to the next round.
“It’s been done before, down two games,” said Texas captain Maxime Fortunus. “We’re not focused on what’s going to happen in the next two weeks; we are focused in on Wednesday. It’s plain and simple; we have to get out there and play our game and win a game.”
Brett Ritchie scored the lone goal for Texas. Jack Campbell got the start in goal and stopped 24 of 27 shots. Brandon Mashinter had one goal and two assists for Rockford. Michael Leighton turned in another solid performance in goal for the IceHogs, stopping 34 of 35 shots.
“You’ve got to give Leighton credit. He has been outstanding in the series,” said Laxdal. “He’s had great starts to the game when we have had some looks.”
Rockford got off to a strong start Saturday, outshooting the Stars 11-4 in the first period in building a 2-0 lead. The IceHogs scored nine seconds after their first power play expired to take a 1-0 lead. Garret Ross slipped a rebound past Campbell at the 9:28 mark. The Stars came close to tying the game late in the first but a Ritchie shot hit the post. Just 19 seconds later, Rockford’s Tanner Kero scored from the left circle off the rush to make it a 2-0 game at the 18:01 mark.
The Stars ramped up the pressure in the second, outshooting Rockford 16-8, but they weren’t able to crack Leighton. Ritchie finally got Texas on the board at the 12:00 mark of the third, scoring off a scramble in front of Leighton to make it a 2-1 game. But that was as close as Texas would get. Peter Regin scored on the power play at the 16:17 mark and then Mashinter sealed the win with a late empty-net goal.
Texas now heads to Rockford needing three straight wins to take the series, but the focus is on Game 3 of the series Wednesday night.
“You can’t worry about winning the series until you win one game,” Laxdal said. “We have to go in there with the mindset that we are going to win that first game.”
*Texas outshot Rockford 35-28, including 31-17 over the final two periods.
*Brett Ritchie led Texas Stars with six shots on goal.
*Center Mattias Janmark made his Texas Stars debut Saturday night. He had two shots on goal in about six minutes of ice time.
*With Janmark playing and Derek Meech coming in on defense, the Stars opted to play 11 forwards and 7 defensemen. Forwards Matej Stransky and Kevin Henderson, who both played Friday, were scratched Saturday.
Texas Stars lineup
Curtis McKenzie – Justin Dowling – Brett Ritchie
Derek Hulak – Travis Morin – Greg Rallo
Brendan Ranford – Devin Shore – Scott Glennie
Jason Dickinson – Mattias Janmark
Patrik Nemeth – Jamie Oleksiak
Derek Meech/Cameron Gaunce- Maxime Fortunus
Mattias Backman – Julius Honka
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. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.