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Benn Breaks Scoring Slump To Put Stars Past Leafs

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It was a battle of the goaltenders in Toronto and the Stars came out on top thanks to some nifty netminding by Khudobin.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

After falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-4 at home earlier in the season, the Dallas Stars tied the season series with a 2-1 victory. Although the score may not suggest it, the game was ripe with scoring chances, especially from the Maple Leafs who nearly doubled their shot total in the third period. Thankfully for the Stars, backup goaltender Anton Khudobin was able to make save after save, letting only a 6-on-4 power play goal go by him.

Jamie Benn also found the back of the net after a seven-game goal scoring drought, and Devin Shore built off of his strong game against the Montreal Canadiens with a goal of his own. Meanwhile Tyler Seguin picked up two assists on the evening, and Brett Ritchie had a night to forget with frequent visits to the penalty box.

The win puts the Stars at 7-5-0 across 12 games and 2-3 on the road. With back-to-back wins, the Stars will try to keep the momentum going when they square off against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

FIRST PERIOD

The game started off pretty slowly, with both teams icing the puck a couple times in just the first few minutes. Each team had just two shots a piece by about five minutes in, but the Toronto Maple Leafs quickly turned on the heat with some decent chances. Their best opportunity came on a power play after Brett Ritchie was called for holding. Mitch Marner dished the puck across the ice to John Tavares, who fired at what seemed like a wide open net at the time. The puck sailed past Anton Khudobin, who was sliding over to try and make the stop, but ricocheted off of the pipe, keeping Tavares off the board.

The Stars proceeded to kill the rest of the power play with ease, clearing the puck several times over the remaining minute and a half. While the team dominated the playoff circle throughout the period — they won 12 out of 16 total draws — they had a lot of trouble getting into the offensive zone cleanly. With less than five minutes left, the Leafs had nearly twice as many shots on goal.

With about three minutes left to play, however, the Stars finally got a lengthy possession in the offensive zone, although it only culminated in one shot on goal. Tyler Seguin had a potential opportunity not much later off of the rush, but Connor Brown kept his stick tied up, and the game remained scoreless as the first period expired.

Score: Dallas 0, Toronto 0
Shots: Dallas 7, Toronto 9

SECOND PERIOD

Both teams came out of the gate with more intensity in the second. Esa Lindell had a potential one-timer opportunity off a cross-ice pass, but the puck unfortunately had an odd bounce and hit his leg. Less than a minute later, Zach Hyman had a potential breakaway that was foiled by Roman Polak, who made a nice poke-check to knock the puck away from Hyman.

The best opportunities for each team, however, came in the middle portion of the period. Ritchie slid a nice pass to Jason Dickinson on the rush, but Dickinson hesitated on his shot and was denied by Frederik Andersen. Later, Tavares had another golden opportunity with a shot close to the net, only this time Khudobin got a piece of it and kept it out.

About a minute later, Valeri Nichushkin drew a holding penalty by Par Lindholm, putting the Stars on the power play for the first time. Jason Spezza made some sweet dekes at one point, but the Stars’ first group failed to put the puck in the net, and the team lost valuable time as they struggled to switch to the second unit. But just microseconds after the power play expired — okay, in reality it was just two — Jamie Benn tipped a Seguin shot down and between Andersen’s legs, opening the scoring and putting up the Stars by one.

The Stars would almost immediately go back on the power play due to a holding penalty by Justin Holl on Radek Faksa, but the Stars failed to put the puck in the net. The best opportunity was actually a short-handed breakaway by Mitch Marner. Khudobin passed the puck too far away from Miro Heiskanen, who was barely able to get the tip of his stick on it, and was forced to stretch out his legs and make a fantastic stop against the young Maple Leaf.

Toronto would get their own power play thanks to a tripping penalty by Marc Methot on Marner, and the Stars would in turn get their short-handed chance off the rush by Blake Comeau. But Andersen likewise stood strong, and the period eventually concluded with just the lone goal by Benn.

Score: Dallas 1, Toronto 0
Shots: Dallas 15, Toronto 16

THIRD PERIOD

The string of penalties that started in the second bled into the final period, as Ritchie took his second holding call of the night just 1:12 into the third. After killing their 22nd consecutive penalty, the Stars got on the board once again thanks to a beautiful sequence that saw the puck go from Seguin to Mattias Janmark to Devin Shore up front, who proceeded to net his third goal in just two games.

Toronto proceeded to go on the power play yet again thanks to a tripping penalty by Dickinson, but the Stars managed to kill yet another one. It wasn’t due to a lack of trying by the Maple Leafs, however; Khudobin got peppered several times in the first 30 seconds, yet the Stars’ netminder managed to stay perfect for the evening.

Not much later, John Klingberg broke up a potential scoring chance by Tavares, and Marner fanned on a shot after picking up the puck. Only a minute later, Khudobin got caught too far forward, and Patrick Marleau fired a laser at a wide open net. But luck favored the Stars yet again, and the puck deflected off the right post and stayed out, keeping Toronto off the board.

Marleau would get his revenge, however; after Brett Ritchie took his third penalty of the night, the Leafs pulled Frederick Andersen with a tad more than three minutes left and Marleau quickly cut the Stars’ lead by half. The Leafs pulled Andersen yet again with a little more than two minutes left, but Khudobin and the Stars’ defense stood strong, fighting until the bitter end to take the victory.

Final Score: Dallas 2, Toronto 1
Final Shots: Dallas 18, Toronto 31

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