May 23 2014 09:31PM
Heading into tonights game, the Texas Stars' home ice advantage had some prior history on its side. They haven't lost a playoff game at home this season. Their opponents haven't beat them in Cedar Park since November 2012. They've only lost 9 of 42 home games this year on the whole. It's a scary situation to be in, and especially when you're the underdog. But the Toronto Marlies know all about overcoming the odds this year, and continued their run of unfathomable success, getting outshot by 31 but outscoring their opponents 5-1.
As they so often have, the Marlies made an early statement with the first goal of the game. A bad breakout pass by Radek Faksa was sent back the other way by Kevin Marshall. Trevor Smith gave it a moment and found Brandon Kozun, who streaked into the offensive zone and fired a wrister past Cristopher Nilstorp. It was the only goal of the most even period of the game, though Texas still had a few more chances to score.
Toronto found themselves some insurance in the best possible way. Early in the second period, TJ Brennan and Peter Holland scored thirteen seconds apart. Brennan's was a wrister from the point, one so hard that it couldn't be stopped by Dustin Jeffrey's two chop to his stick at the same time. Holland picked up a loose puck after Sam Carrick blocked a stretch pass, and put in his fifth in five games. From this point, the Marlies begain to fall back, and the Stars began to press, and hard.
The third period was one that the Marlies were lucky to survive. To be honest, they spent almost no time outside of their own zone, and I wouldn't have blamed the arena staff if they started playing Sweet Georgia Brown mid-play. A combination of score effects, three powerplays given up, and eight minutes of an empty Texas net lead to an all out swarming of Drew MacIntyre's crease in the final stretch of the game. Chris Mueller eventually cracked the shutout bid, after nine minutes of 6-on-4 and 6-on-5 hockey. But that was all for the rally, as Sam Carrick and Jerred Smithson added empty netters.
"I think we came out strong" were the words that came out of Trevor Smith's mouth post game, describing the win. It's the absolutely correct answer to give as a captain, but man, oh man, it's not a fair description of the game at all. A final shot count of 50-19 is absolutely unacceptable if they want to have a shot in this series.
A good amount of the zone dominance came from the penalties. I said they had to be more disciplined in my series preview; they gave up six powerplays. Texas, predictably, only took two.
Drew MacIntyre was the indisputable first star of this game. 49 saves on 50 shots may just be his best performance ever as a member of this team. His new playoff save percentage? 0.955, which I'd like to call video game-esque, but everybody knows that EA Sports won't even allow that.
Brandon Kozun lead the team with shots, but the most important was his opening goal. That was a smart play by him to get into the open lane.
Andrew MacWilliam turned out to not be game-ready, and missed todays game. Kevin Marshall drew back in his place and took two penalties, but earned an important assist.
Jerred Smithson is now shooting at 50% on the playoffs, thanks to that empty netter. That makes that his second shot in eight games. The Marlies on their own shot 50% in the third, but I wouldn't brag about being outshot 21-4.
Toronto is still yet to trail in a game in these playoffs, and improve to 8-0.
Game 2 is on Monday. LeafsTV will have it, just like they had tonight's game.
Photo Courtesy of @TexasStars on Twitter