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Staying cool under pressure: Toronto Marlies beat Texas Stars 2-1 in Game 3 of Calder Cup Finals

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The Marlies steal one back on the road and lead the series 2-1 after three games.

Travis Dermott, but you already knew that.
Credit: Christian Bonin

The Toronto Marlies stayed cool under the blistering Texas heat and came away with a 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the Calder Cup Finals. Chris Mueller and Calle Rosen scored for the Marlies during a second period offensive outburst that was enough to propel the Marlies past the finish line. They are now only two wins away from their first Calder Cup Championship.

The Team

Forwards

Andreas Johnsson - Miro Aaltonen - Carl Grundstrom

Dmytro Timashov - Chris Mueller - Ben Smith

Pierre Engvall - Frederik Gauthier - Colin Greening

Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Trevor Moore

Defense

Travis Dermott - Timothy Liljegren

Martin Marincin - Justin Holl

Calle Rosen - Vincent LoVerde

Garret Sparks got the start. Shocker. The last two games at home took a chunk out of his save percentage, which is down to a cool .920, whereas Texas Stars’ MVP goalie Mike McKenna is trucking away with an impressive .933, despite giving up six goals in one game on Saturday night.

The Marlies were 10-1 with this exact roster in the playoffs heading into this game, so no lineup changes shouldn’t have been much of a surprise.

The Game

First Period

The Marlies looked dangerous in the early goings of the first period. Six minutes into the game, the shots were 3-0 in favour of the baby Leafs. Unfortunately, the quality chances have gone in the favour of the Stars. Leading scorer Curtis McKenzie had two chances early on, once when Holl lost the puck in his feet and allowed McKenzie to get around him for a chance. He again had a chnce to sccore on Sparks when he burst down the wing and turnstiled Rosen at the blueline.

The first line for the Stars — consisting of Travis Morin, Justin Dowling, and McKenzie — has been a menace for the Marlies defense, who have yet to find a solution to the trio that has scored five of the seven goals for the Stars in this series so far.

In another example of “letting the players play” by the referees, Reese Scarlett puts Mueller down with a hard knee on knee hit as the Marlies center is skating by him down the wing with possession. Mueller would stay down for a minute in pain, but would not be compensated with a power play as the referee lets the play go. If someone can explain that call to me in the comments, I would be very grateful.

As the first was nearing its conclusion, Moore found a wide open Dermott with a quick pass from the half-wall to the point, fooling everyone including the goalie McKenna. With the empty net in front of him, Dermott shanked his shot to the right and watched it sneak under the pad of the surprised McKenna to reappear on the wrong side of the post before getting picked up and cleared. I still have no idea how he missed that, wow.

After One

It wasn’t a great period for the Marlies. They should have gotten a power play and a goal, but received neither while being a scoring chance sieve on the other end. They led in shots 7-5, but the shot attempts (if they were available in the AHL) would tell you a different story.

Second Period

0-1

The Marlies once again get caught unawares and motionless at their own blueline when Remi Elie catches LoVerde several feet away from his man Sheldon Dries. Elie releases his teammate for a breakaway, and Dries finishes off the play with a shot to the top corner of Sparks’ net.

Nooooooooooooo!

1-1

After forcing the Stars into an icing, a new-look line of Johnsson - Mueller - Smith combine to tie the game for the Marlies. Johnsson catches a pass from LoVerde, slips out of a check from Dowling, freeing himself to play catch with Smith before finding Mueller at the far post for a tap-in.

Yessssssssssss!

With the Marlies regaining momentum, they would lose a key part in their machine. Freddy the Goat got hit hard into the boards by Samuel Laberge and was forced to leave the game due to injury. Greening would take his spot at the third line center of the group, a position that is not alien to him, thankfully.

2-1

Head coach Sheldon Keefe continued to surprise us with a series of jumbled lines that resulted in a trio of Engvall, Greening, and Moore. With Moore racing into the play from the bench, he is able to find the puck and feed Rosen at the point. Rosen walks the line before firing a shot through a crowd in front of the net. His shot beats everyone, and gives the Marlies their first lead in over five periods.

After Two

The lines for the Marlies were a complete mess in the second period. It started with Johnsson on the second line, then somehow went to Grundstrom on the fourth line with Brooks and Marchment (potential first/second line next year?). We got a glimpse of Greening at centre with the absence of Gauthier, while also giving us a peak at a potential NHL fourth line of Moore and Johnsson together with Aaltonen. But at the end of the day, the Marlies produced one of their best 15 minute stretches of the Finals.

They scored twice, produced chances at a clip we are accustomed to seeing, and did not let the Stars get scoring chances on Sparks. We did get to see Sparks get overly protective of his house when a Stars forward got too close to his head, but, other than that, things were relatively calm... in a chaotic way.

Third Period

You could tell the start of the third period was chippy when the teams broke a part of the protective glass in the Stars’ zone. Todd Crocker, as always, gave us his incomparable commentary of the repair, praising the blue ladder the ice crew used to fix the glass. Blue ladders; a key contributor to winning.

Midway through the third, the Marlies lost one of their key contributors. Engvall was hauled down awkwardly by Elie in what should’ve been a penalty in the offensive zone. Engvall’s left leg drags behind him as he falls backwards and it gets bent in a direction it probably shouldn’t go. He had to be helped off the ice, but miraculously returned to the bench a few minutes later. As he took his first shift with eight minutes left in the period it didn’t look like he lost a step as a result of his fall, thankfully.

The Marlies would proceed to kill off the few minutes left in regulation by keeping the Stars as far from Sparks as they can. One way they did was when Liljegren drew a tripping penalty on McKenzie after Rosen lost a tire at the offensive blueline, forcing a race to the puck in the neutral zone between Liljegren and McKenzie. The Marlies power play was not effective in any way, but they were able to kill the clock down to 3:58, which was a win in itself.

Toronto would finish off the final four minutes without much trouble as they re-take home-ice advantage with the 2-1 victory. Game 4 is Thursday at 8pm EDT.