The Dallas Stars have done some special things playing from behind this season, but couldn't work their magic tonight as the Toronto Maple Leafs once against bested them, stifling hockey's arguably best offense thanks to their netminder.
The Stars have now lost four games. Three of them to two clubs (Toronto, Colorado) who had a combined 5-17-5 record entering play this evening. Toronto has swept them for the second straight season- And as they say, the only way they'll see them again is in the Stanley Cup Finals.
A possibility for one of these teams. Not so much for the other, but they leave with the two points.
James Reimer ends his season series with Dallas having stopped 79 of 82 pucks thrown at him to the tune of a .963 save percentage.
Dallas out-attempted the Leafs and put 38 pucks on net but they did not exceed them in quality as Toronto played a largely careful game with an eye on counter-attacking.
More troubling still is the penalty kill, which has now surrendered nine goals in eight games- A growing area of concern.
So they'll move on to two veritable super-bowls on Thursday and Saturday against Winnipeg and Minnesota. If there was a game to slow down on offense this homestand this was it, but the level of competition is about to sky-rocket and the Stars have not seen its like this season.
Oh, and St. Louis, Nashville and Minnesota all collected two points tonight.
***Peter Holland (1-0 Toronto) - Johnny Oduya was dismissed for what many on social media felt was a questionable holding call down below Antti Niemi's net and the Leafs quickly set up thanks to their considerable face-off prowess early in the game.
Holland tipped a Gardiner point shot for a quick special teams goal. Not much Niemi can do about that one.
Holland gives the Leafs a 1-0 lead pic.twitter.com/57nGz5qbsZ— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 11, 2015
***Patrick Sharp (1-1 tie) - As the Stars' shot total ballooned and Reimer's chest protector suffered very minor damage it seemed Dallas would never break through, and with Patrick Sharp being hauled down into the corner with just seconds to go they seemed destined to trail after two.
With time expiring, however, Jason Demers would pinch deep and get a puck to deflect back to a newly-erect Sharp who quickly elevated through James Reimer, who was in position to make the stop but somehow did not. 1-1 after two.
***Vern Fiddler (2-1 Stars) - An impossible angle. On the backhand. With no screen. There's no reason in the world that one should have gotten past Reimer, even less so than the Sharp goal to end the second, and yet it did. An elated Fiddler celebrated demonstratively.
***P.A. Parenteau (2-2 tie) - A push-back from the Leafs had the Stars playing what looked to be bend-not-break defense when a lucky bounce off Jordie Benn's skate pushed the puck briefly over the goal line with Niemi deep.
***Jake Gardiner (3-2 Toronto) - Yet another lucky bounce for the Leafs as a point shot from considerable distance glanced off Sceviour's stick, surprising Niemi and giving the Leafs their game winner.
- The two-headed goalie monster situation continues to produce numbers you can live with, and then some. Three goals against doesn't look good tonight, but it wasn't Niemi's fault, and he kept them in the game. Ruff has some interesting choices to make for the games that really matter coming up against the Central.
- Jason Demers was really good tonight- Forget about the two points he had. He and Oduya stayed in the 60%+ Corsi range for most of the night.
- Jordie Benn did not. He and his partner and crime hovered around 35-40% on Corsi events this evening, and the awful bounce that tied things at two was, of course, less than ideal.
- The "Taco Period" is the second now- Have I mentioned that I like this? It allows for those that seem to care a lot of cheer for it at less critical junctures of the game, like while still losing late in the third after a meaningless goal- Which is a ridiculous time to cheer for anything.
- Next up for Dallas is a Winnipeg Jets team that got absolutely spanked in Minnesota this evening, trailing 5-1 heading into the third before a couple of garbage-time goals made it 5-3. And they like to hit.