The Texas Stars moved to within one win of their first Calder Cup in franchise history, rallying from a 0-3 deficit to defeat the St. John’s IceCaps 4-3 in overtime Monday night at Mile One Centre. Travis Morin scored the game-winner 2:24 into overtime, pushing the Stars’ lead in the Calder Cup Finals to 3-1.
“All playoffs long we’ve got down early a bit,” Morin told Leafs TV. “The whole Toronto series (Western Conference Finals) we were playing from behind and in the first round against Oklahoma City we did it, coming from behind and winning in overtime. We have a lot of great character in there, guys who gut it out. Everybody contributes. It just shows our heart. We got down, we weren’t playing well the first half of the game and we still found a way.”
Morin, who had two goals and one assist, capped off the Texas rally early in overtime, taking a pass from Brendan Ranford and beating IceCaps goaltender Michael Hutchinson with a one-timer. It was the second straight OT winner for Morin, who scored to give Texas a 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the series.
“It’s the same as last game. It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Morin. “We’ve got one more to go. It’s going to be a tough one to get, the fourth one is always the hardest but for the next hour or so we are really going to enjoy this one.”
Game 5 is Tuesday in St. John’s.
“It’s a tough loss,” said St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge. “Anytime you have a lead like we did and it slowly slips out of your grasp at a crucial time of the year, it is a tough pill to swallow for the guys in that room. … We’ll need to come in tomorrow and get our focus where it needs to be, which is on one game.”
The Stars were badly outplayed over the first half of Monday’s game. They were outshot 29-6 and outscored 3-0, but the second half of the game was a different story. The Stars outshot St. John’s 31-6, getting goals from Morin and Curtis McKenzie late in the second to cut the lead to 3-2, and then a goal from Brett Ritchie with 2:09 left in the third to tie.
“We didn’t give up. We knew if we got one maybe something good could happen. We were fortunate it did,” Texas coach Willie Desjardins said. “It was getting those two goals at the end of the second. That gave us some life, thinking that maybe we had a chance in the third.”
The IceCaps dominated the first period, outshooting the Stars 21-5 and scoring the only goal, which came while they were shorthanded.
With the Stars on their second power play of the game, St. John’s won an offensive zone draw and defenseman Ben Chiarot scored off a shot from the point at the 13:02 mark.
Stars goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp, who made 32 saves on the night, was outstanding in the first, stopping 20 shots and getting some help from defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who stopped IceCaps forward John Albert’s wrap-around bid into an open side of the net in the final minute of the period.
“That was probably their best period of the series and maybe our worst of the playoffs,” Stars forward Chris Mueller told Leafs TV.
Things didn’t get better early in the second for the Stars. The IceCaps made it 2-0 just 57 seconds into the period when Carl Klingberg beat Nilstorp with a close range backhand shot off the rush.
The Stars got into penalty trouble later in the period, putting the IceCaps on a 38 second five-on-three and St. John’s forward Kael Mouillierat tallied to make it a 3-0 game at the 9:13 mark.
“For a while there weren’t a lot of positives,” Desjardins said. “When the shots were 29-6 there weren’t a lot of positives. Guys knew we weren’t playing good and that we had to play better.”
And it was all Texas for the rest of the second period. The Stars outshot the IceCaps 16-2 over the final half of the period and scored twice to make it a 3-2 game heading into the final period. Morin finished off a pass from Ranford to make it a 3-1 game at the 15:33 mark.
The Stars struck again at the 18:09 mark when Ranford put a shot on goal off the rush and McKenzie knocked home the rebound to cut the IceCaps’ lead to one.
The Stars outshot the IceCaps 15-4 in the third and had several chances to tie before finally getting the equalizer. A Ritchie shot from the right circle got through Hutchinson and appeared to cross the goal line with just over 11 minutes remaining, but the goal was waved off. It then went to a video review and was waved off again. Ritchie’s point blank bid with 5:57 remaining was stopped by Hutchinson, and three minutes later a Dustin Jeffrey shot rang off the crossbar.
But a minute later Oleksiak sent a cross-ice to pass to Justin Dowling, who tapped the puck to Ritchie and the Stars rookie scored from the slot to tie the game 3-3 with 2:09 remaining and send it to overtime, setting the stage for Morin’s game-winner.
*Texas improved to 5-0 in overtime in the playoffs. St. John’s is 0-3 in playoff overtime.
*Travis Morin has scored the last two overtime winning goals for Texas.
*Morin became only the third player in AHL history to score two overtime goals in the same Calder Cup Finals series.
*Morin has scored all three game-winning goals for Texas in the Calder Cup Finals.
*Morin leads the playoffs in scoring with 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists) in 20 games. His nine goals are tied for first.
*Brendan Ranford registered three assists in Monday’s game.
*Texas outshot St. John’s 38-35. Ranford led the Stars with six shots on goal. Brett Ritchie had five.
*The Stars were 0-3 on the power play and 3-4 on the penalty kill.
Texas Stars lineup
Curtis McKenzie – Travis Morin – Brendan Ranford
Dustin Jeffrey – Chris Mueller – Scott Glennie
Mike Hedden – Justin Dowling – Brett Ritchie
Kevin Henderson – Radek Faksa – Matej Stransky
Patrik Nemeth – Jyrki Jokipakka
Jamie Oleksiak – Cameron Gaunce
Derek Meech – Maxime Fortunus
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.