A lot was made of how the Leafs would respond after the All Star break. It took about less than 3 minutes to find out, and the answer was…not well…..
After Frederik Andersen made a couple of strong saves to keep the game scoreless, Devin Shore cut in front of the net and put the puck past Andersen to make it 1-0 Stars. Dallas would continue to buzz around the Leafs net and it wouldn’t be long before Andersen would kick out a shot by Shore, which ended up directly on the stick of Radek Faksa, who buried it to give the Stars a 2-0 lead. The Leafs settled in a little bit and actually managed to apply a bit of pressure at this point. Auston Matthews was able to draw a penalty, and nearly score on a spectacular rush up the middle. The Leafs would record 3 shots on the ensuing power play, but still looked out of sorts, as several passes were missed leading to the Stars being able to clear the zone. Shortly after the Stars were able to kill off the penalty, Lauri Korpikoski scored to make it 3-0 Stars. It was at this point that Frederik Andersen’s night came to an end as he was replaced by backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney. The Leafs would continue to press, and leading to another power play when Nikita Zaitsev was tripped. Shortly into the power play, James van Riemsdyk fired a shot pass in the direction of the net, which was promptly tipped into the goal by Tyler Bozak to cut the deficit to 3-1. However just as it looked like the Leafs would climb back into things, Brett Ritchie would beat McElhinney to make it 4-1, and minutes later after a Nazem Kadri penalty, Fredrik Gauthier lost Jamie Benn out in front of the net and Benn made no mistake, making the score 5-1, which is how the 1st period would end.
Leafs coach Mike Babcock worked the line blender in between periods, moving Mitch Marner onto the line with Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman, and Connor Brown to a line with Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk. The changes sparked the Leafs immediately, as the Matthews and Marner combo buzzed around the offensive zone all period. Less than 5 minutes into the period Matt Martin intercepted a pass and fed Nikita Soshnikov in front and Soshnikov buried it to cut the Dallas lead to 5-2. The celebration was short lived however as Tyler Seguin would rush down the ice and attempt a wrap around, which was unsuccessful, however Jason Spezza was there to slide home the rebound to make it 6-2 Stars. The Leafs refused to go away, Nikita Zaitsev slid the puck up ice to Nazem Kadri in the middle of a line change, and Kadri was able to feed a streaking Mitch Marner who wired the puck past Kari Lehtonen to cut the lead to 6-3. The Hyman-Matthews-Marner line would continue to buzz the rest of the period, with Marner looking particularly dangerous, however the frame would end 6-3, with Curtis McElhinney making a spectacular save on Patrick Eaves late in the going after a brutal giveaway by Jake Gardiner, who certainly didn’t have the best night of his season.
The Leafs came out and continued to put pressure on the Dallas, however they weren’t able to generate much in the way of scoring opportunities, aside from another good chance from Marner, until about the 11 minute mark, when there was a net front scramble, which initially appeared to have been stopped by Kari Lehtonen, however upon further review, actually crossed the goal line for what looked to be Nikita Soshnikov’s 2nd goal of the game, however upon review, it was determined that Soshnikov kicked Lehtonen’s stick, causing the puck to go into the net. A pretty convincing argument could be made that a Dallas player drove Soshnikov into the net, forcing the contact with Lehtonen’s stick, and Mike Babcock and Matt Martin tried to make that very argument, however it was to no avail, and the Leafs never seriously threatened again, dropping the game 6-3. It was their 2nd regulation loss in row for the first time since November 19th and 22nd vs Montreal and Carolina. They’ll look to get back on track Thursday in St.Louis, a game that they hope to have Morgan Rielly back for.
By The Numbers
Goals By Period
Shots By Period
MIKE BABCOCK — POST GAME
Video will be posted when video becomes available………..