Depleted Leafs overcome resurgent Stars in the shootout

It took a thrilling shootout to solve an energetic tilt as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Dallas Stars on Black Friday, 4-3. Jonas Gustavsson made a beautiful desperation save to keep Mike Ribeiro's shootout attempt out of the net to seal the win.

The Stars found offense from a rising scoring source in their ranks, Eric Nystrom. The waiver-wire pickup got the Stars on the board first with a dazzling move off of a wonderful pass from Michael Ryder to make it 1-0.

Then the much maligned defense against the defense failed the Stars as defenseman Dion Phaneuf factored heavily into the next goals, shooting two shots towards the net. One deftly deflected home by Joey Crabb, and the other one trickled past a confused Kari Lehtonen to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead.

Not long after, the Stars broke out on a 3-on-2 for a picturesque setup. Jamie Benn carried the puck forward, dished it off to Radek Dvorak, who one-touch fed it to Nystrom for his second of the game, and seventh of the season to tie it at 2.

Early in the 3rd, the Leafs shot the puck into the zone aiming for the cycle shift. Tim Connolly beat the Star defense and fed a quick, slick feed out in front to Clarke MacArthur for his 8th goal of the season, giving the Leafs the lead.

It only took five minutes for the Stars to tie it. The Stars hemmed the Leafs in their own zone with relentless forechecking. Mike Ribeiro held the puck behind the net and fed Radek Dvorak who fired a laser to the far side for his second goal of the season, tying the game at threes.

The end of the game proved interesting. Tomas Vincour entered the zone on a Dallas rush. He subsequently got his clock cleaned by what looked like Luke Schenn's elbow. This could potentially be looked at as the next suspendable offense. Also, late in the game, Joffrey Lupul got whacked in the face by Sheldon Souray's twig, cracking Lupul's visor in two. No penalty resulted on the play.

Lehtonen stopped two of three shots in the shootout. Gustavsson stopped all three. Neither goalie was great during the game, nor did they make any great saves, but Gustavsson was good enough to earn a hard victory for the injury-ravaged Leafs. The Stars are the last team in the NHL to record an extra session loss.

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Gold Star for the Stars: Eric Nystrom —Nystrom played really well with whoever was on the ice surface with him. Jamie Benn had the secondary assist on both goals, carrying the play into the attacking zone. The former first round pick was a threat throughout the entire game. His two goals were beauties, too. Give Nystrom a gold star for the night.

Falling Star for the Stars: Tomas Vincour — On a line with Eric Nystrom and Mike Ribeiro, you should be able to score, or at least have scoring opportunities. However, Tomas Vincour continues to struggle at the NHL level, fumbling the puck and looking totally confused on the ice surface. He was beat on all puck battles and ended the game with 1 shot, was a -2, and was injured on a flying elbow by defenseman Luke Schenn. Give Vincour a falling star for the night.

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