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Stars PK Crumbles Against Talented Maple Leafs In 7-4 Loss

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Offense is fun, but defense this leaky is not so much.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

“I prefer not to lose the games.” A sentiment all fans and likely the whole of the Stars room could empathize with, vocalized by Jason Spezza after a 7-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.

Beating the Toronto Maple Leafs would have been a good way to make the rest of the hockey world sit up and take notice of what Dallas had done in their first two games. Unfortunately, Dallas did not get the chance to write the story that way tonight. “I thought our effort and our emotion was really good,” head coach Jim Montgomery said after the game. “Our execution wasn’t where it needed to be against a real good hockey club.”

The biggest issue Montgomery had with the execution was in some of the small details of the game. Getting beat for icings that shouldn’t have been called and making the empty net goal too easy with a puck flipped over the heads of the team and a guy beat them to get to it first.

There will be games like this throughout an 82-game schedule. In some ways, Dallas has looked better than some would have thought they would given the opponents they’ve had already and the new coach/system/chemistry trying to be generated. In other ways, it’s good to get a loss like this out of the way early – and if you have to take an “L” like this, better against the other conference than in a divisional matchup.

See…positives!

FIRST PERIOD

Dallas did not have much of their own game going for most of the first 20 minutes. It easily could have been a 3-1 game instead of the 2-1 score the first period ended with because of one puck that was shot right off the crossbar and behind Bishop. Luckily, Bishop is still living right by those goal posts.

Not long after that play, Dallas had its most dangerous looks at Andersen with the top line generating four consecutive point-blank, slot area chances. A harbinger of how the night would go, Andersen was more than up to the task and his positioning was very good. None of the shot attempts came close to banging home.

Mitch Marner opened the scoring for Toronto, the first time this season Dallas had allowed the first goal against, when the Stars team got caught doing a little too much puck watching and he was given all the space in the world to rip a shot off. It went right over Bishop. The response by Dallas on the next shift was a trend in the right direction – Miro Heiskanen nearly tied the game on an individual effort.

Alexander Radulov would score late in the period to tie the game up after Dallas spent an extended amount of time in their own zone. It came off of a good neutral zone puck battle and win by Heiskanen and a smart feed by Seguin with Radulov streaking towards the net. That is what the Stars are capable of when they’re clicking.

Apparently they’re also capable of allowing those gut-punch late goals against, too. Auston Matthews continued his hot scoring streak on a shot from the half-boards with 1:02 left in the period. Whatever momentum shift Dallas had generated form Radulov’s tying goal quickly evaporated.

SECOND PERIOD

If Dallas was able to hang on in the first period, the second period was a wheels-off 20 minutes of hockey.

There were five goals scored in the middle frame, three for Toronto and two for Dallas to give them a two-goal deficit to try to come back from in the third period. The biggest takeaway in the second period was the undisciplined penalties Dallas took – and how Toronto made them pay for it. After no calls in the first 20 minutes, the referees found their whistles in this period.

It started with Jamie Benn’s roughing penalty, continued with a Heiskanen hi-sticking penalty, and then continued when Roope Hintz played a faceoff with his hand (a rule that is seldom called because most just don’t get caught doing it so blatantly.) Two of those resulted in power play goals against, and both seemed to ring in past Bishop thanks to his own players standing in front of him.

Toronto doesn’t need help beating you, that’s for sure. Their movement on the power play is absurdly quick and had Dallas spinning and out of position all night long.

Bishop also had one in there that likely shouldn’t have gone in. Granted he had a large amount of traffic in front of him, but the replay in-arena from behind Ron Hainsey near the blueline made it appear as though Bishop had a clear sightline for the shot all the way through. It went through the big netminder’s five hole, completing Toronto’s complete dominance of Dallas to that point.

Dallas would make a bit of a comeback on the scoresheet when Benn would score just 19 seconds into the Stars’ first power play of the game with a little more than two minutes left, cutting the lead to 5-3 heading into the last period and swinging momentum back towards Dallas.

THIRD PERIOD

They’d use that momentum, too. John Klingberg would net his second goal of the season on a wicked shot right over Andersen’s blocker side glove. All of a sudden Dallas was within one goal of tying the game and possibly taking a point of tonight’s contest.

You had the feeling that the next goal would determine the outcome of this one, and it did. Just not in the Stars favor. For the seemingly third time tonight, the Stars had a goal go in off a player in front of the net, this time off Marc Methot when Bishop had gotten pulled off to the side of his net and couldn’t get back to it in time.

Don’t get me wrong, Dallas did nothing to help themselves win this one tonight. But they also had a bit of bad luck as a result of their poor puck management and some positioning issues, luck that Dallas had been on the right side of in the first two games.

Other thoughts….

*Yes, secondary scoring has yet to show up this season. But it’s three games in a new system, and outside of the top line, most of these units haven’t played much together to establish the communication and knowledge of where each other will be to connect Montgomery’s system with their play yet. The top unit doesn’t have that issue. They’ve likely picked it up faster because of it. Montgomery said post-game that he was going to look at the Jason Spezza and Roope Hintz lines because they aren’t creating enough offensive chances. Give the guy a chance to see if anything works before hoisting the pitchforks again, shall we?

*On Valeri Nichushkin tonight, Montgomery said “I thought the game looked fast to him. I thought he was caught in-between a lot. The second period, the way it went, it was really hard to get their line out with the three minors we took.” So I’d mark him down as an incomplete tonight, and hope that three days between now and the next game help him get up to game speed.