The Texas Stars are headed to the Calder Cup Western Conference Finals. The Stars blew away the Grand Rapids Griffins, 7-1, Sunday night at Cedar Park Center Sunday night to take the conference semifinal series, 4-2, over the defending Calder Cup champions.
After winning the first two games of the series in Cedar Park, the Stars lost two straight in Grand Rapids and then won a pivotal Game 5 in Michigan on Friday, setting the stage for Sunday’s series-clinching victory.
“This series helped us a lot,” said Texas coach Willie Desjardins. “To get better you have to get pushed, and this series really pushed us. We’re a better team than we were at the start of this series. They’ve had the experience from the playoff run last year, and this is our experience. What we had to go through in this series helped us.”
Texas improved to 7-2 in the postseason, including 4-0 at home where they have outscored their opponents 20-5. Up next are the Toronto Marlies, who have swept their two playoff series, are 7-0 in postseason play and have outscored their opposition 30-11. The series begins Friday night in Cedar Park.
Radek Faksa and Dustin Jeffrey both scored twice for Texas. Chris Mueller, Brett Ritchie and Derek Meech also scored. Cristopher Nilstorp stopped 23 of 24 shots to improve to 5-1 in the playoffs.
Grand Rapids took a 1-0 lead 36 seconds into the game when Teemu Pulkkinen scored from the right circle off the rush, but it was all Texas after that.
Before the game was five minutes old, Mueller and Jeffrey scored 62 seconds apart to put Texas ahead 2-1. Mueller scored off the rebound of a Kevin Henderson shot to tie the game at the 3:56 mark and Jeffrey put the Stars on top at the 4:58 mark, driving the net and stuffing the puck past Griffins goaltender Peter Mrazek. Meech made it a 3-1 game at the 10:37 mark of the first, scoring off a blast from the point.
Faksa scored the only goal of the second period to extend the Stars lead to 4-1, tallying off a quick shot from the slot at the 2:03 mark. That ended the night the night for Mrazek, who allowed four goals on 17 shots. Thomas McCollum took over in goal and kept the Stars off the board until Faksa scored off the rebound of a Matej Stransky shot at 2:24 of the third.
“[Faksa’s line] was good, they were real good the whole series,” Desjardins said. “They made a big difference. Guys commented how good they were the first two games here. Faksa, Stransky were real good. [Derek] Hulak stepped in and played well. They were real big for us, as big as any part of the game.”
Ritchie, who was back in the lineup after missing the first eight games of the playoffs with a lower body injury, scored on a power play and then Jeffrey put a final stamp on things with an empty net goal to make it a 7-1 final.
*The seven goals set a Texas Stars franchise record for goals scored in a playoff game.
*Texas forward Mike Hedden extended his playoff points streak to seven games, a franchise record. He has seven points (three goals, four assists) during the streak.
*Radek Faksa’s two goals were his first professional playoff goals.
*Defensemen Jamie Oleksiak and Derek Meech were both a plus-four in the game.
*Texas Goaltender Jack Campbell, who was injured late in the third period of Friday’s game, did not dress for Sunday’s game. Josh Robinson backed up Cristopher Nilstorp.
*Stars forward Brett Ritchie, who missed the first eight games of the playoffs with a lower body injury, was in the lineup Sunday for Texas.
*Texas forwards Justin Dowling and Toby Petersen were both out with injuries. It was the first game Dowling has missed. Petersen has missed the last two.
Western Conference Finals schedule
Game 1: Fri., May 23, Toronto at Texas, 7:30
Game 2: Mon., May 26, Toronto at Texas, 7:30
Game 3: Wed., May 28, Texas at Toronto, 6:00
Game 4: Thu., May 29, Texas at Toronto, 6:00
*Game 5: Sat., May 31, Texas at Toronto, 2:00
*Game 6: Mon., June 2, Toronto at Texas, 7:30
*Game 7: Tue., June 3, Toronto at Texas, 7:30
Texas Stars lineup
Curtis McKenzie- Travis Morin – Brendan Ranford
Mike Hedden – Dustin Jeffrey – Scott Glennie
Kevin Henderson – Chris Mueller – Brett Ritchie
Derek Hulak – Radek Faksa – Matej Stransky
Patrik Nemeth – Jyrki Jokipakka
Jamie Oleksiak – Derek Meech
Cameron Gaunce – 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.