In the first postseason meeting in 14 years between the AHL’s regular-season champion and the defending Calder Cup winner, the Western Conference’s top seed struck first in a big way.
The Texas Stars scored two goals in 13 seconds early in the first period and pulled away for a 5-2 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins at Cedar Park Center on Thursday night.
Texas takes a 1-0 series lead into Game 2 on Saturday.
Grand Rapids, which had won its previous seven road playoff games, responded quickly when Nathan Paetsch intercepted a Texas clearing attempt and fed Cory Emmerton, who swooped around Jack Campbell and tucked the puck in, cutting the deficit to 2-1 at 4:42. It was the first power-play goal allowed by the Stars this postseason after they went 9-for-9 in the first round vs. Oklahoma City.
Tomas Jurco brought the Griffins to within 3-2 at 4:20 of the second period off a tremendous individual effort, taking a pass from Ryan Sproul in his own zone, racing up the right wing and splitting three Stars defenders before snapping a shot under the crossbar behind Campbell.
Curtis McKenzie, who won the Dudley "Red" Garrett Award as the AHL’s outstanding rookie in 2013-14, netted his first playoff goal at 5:41 when he took a long outlet pass from Jokipakka, came in on a breakaway and took a shot that Petr Mrazek got a big piece of — but not enough to keep from trickling in.
Jeffrey then scored his second goal of the night at 10:02 of the second, stepping around a Griffins defender just inside the blue line and slipping a shot past Mrazek to make it 5-2.
The second half of the game was scoreless, and the Stars withstood an 11-6 Griffins shot advantage in the third period to post the victory.
Campbell (2-0) finished with 23 saves on the night, while Mrazek (3-2) stopped 31 of 36 shots in the loss.
Western Conference Semifinals – Series “K” (best-of-7)
1-Texas Stars vs. 4-Grand Rapids Griffins
Game 1 – Thu., May 8 – TEXAS 5, Grand Rapids 2
Game 2 – Sat., May 10 – Grand Rapids at Texas, 8:00
Game 3 – Tue., May 13 – Texas at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 4 – Wed., May 14 – Texas at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 16 – Texas at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sun., May 18 – Grand Rapids at Texas, 8:00
*Game 7 – Mon., May 19 – Grand Rapids at Texas, 8:30
*if necessary… All times Eastern