Leafs Stick It to Stars in Shootout

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs are on their way to Anaheim to finish this four game road trip with another two points following their 3-2 SO victory in Dallas last night. Although the Leafs managed to get a great result against a tough opponent, the game wasn't all good for the blue and white. Top pairing defenseman (and probably their most consistent defender of the season) Carl Gunnarsson left the game midway through the second period after taking a point shot off of his hand. Penalty killing and faceoff specialist David Steckel also blocked a shot with his hand forcing him to leave the game. Both Leafs did not return for the third period and the Leafs injured list keeps getting longer. Already missing James Reimer, Mikhail Grabovski, Colby Armstrong, Matthew Lombardi, Mike Komisarek and Mike Brown the fact that the Leafs have continued to get victories speaks to both their coaching and the depth of the organization.

At the time of the injuries (they happened within minutes of each other in the second period) the Leafs and the Stars were deadlocked 2-2. Joey Crabb and Dion Phaneuf each scored for the Leafs while the Stars were fuelled by two goals from Eric Nystrom. For the remainder of the game the Leafs leaned on four defenseman with John Michael Liles, Phaneuf, Luke Schenn and Jake Gardiner all playing heavy minutes. Gardiner played a career high 28:34 seconds, while defense partner Schenn had his best game of the season. Gardiner's great skating and poise coupled with Schenn's physical ability stood out for the Leafs.

Dallas stormed the Leafs zone repeatedly in the third period outshooting the buds 14-6 in the final frame. Despite the Stars dominance the Leafs actually took the lead less than seven minutes into the period when Clarke MacArthur banked in a great feed from Tim Connolly to put the Leafs ahead. Radek Dvorak answered for Dallas after a long siege in the Leafs' zone.

For a game between two non-conference opponents there was a lot of physicality and controversy. Following two cheap and unecessary penalties called against each team with less than five minutes left in a tie game, Leaf winger Joffrey Lupul was raked across the face by Sheldon Souray. The referee (who was looking right at it) decided to not call a penalty. The high stick cracked Lupul's shield and cut him over the eye and in two spots on his cheek. Lupul was livid with the officials and deservedly so.

Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson matched Dallas' star goalie Kari Lehtonen save for save throughout this game. Gustavsson also stopped all three Dallas attempts in the shootout while, Lupul (justly) scored the lone Leaf goal to steal the extra point.

Men of the Match 

Leafs: Dion Phaneuf - The leafs Captain fuelled the offense tonight with a goal and an assist and now sits one point out of the league lead in defenseman scoring. Had an ongoing feud with Stars pest Steve Ott for most of the game. Played without his natural partner for the final half of the game, but still was a rock defensively. Had a great night on the penalty kill.

Stars: Eric Nystrom - The former Calgary first rounder (10th overall in 2002) kept the Stars in the game for the first half with his two goals. Had a couple of chances to finish off the hat trick, but Gustavsson deprived him the rest of the way.

Millenism of the Night

It's not a direct quote, but the four and a half minute bio on Stars' coach Glen Gulutzan while the play was going on in the second period was a joke. It felt like Millen was reading off of Gulutzan's wikipedia page. Holy shit Glen, I don't care if he taught school in Finland!

Next Game: The Leafs are going going back back to Cali Cali as they face the Ducks Sunday night.