The Dallas Stars knew they were going to get a motivated Toronto Maple Leafs team when they journeyed north on Thursday night. The Leafs lost to the Arizona Coyotes in their last game, and their elite players were called out by their coach for not playing like elite players.
In other words, the Leafs didn’t need additional help to beat the Stars. Playing on their home ice and against one of the hottest-start teams in the league, there was plenty to find the motivation for this one.
That’s why Dallas did themselves no favors with their parade to the penalty box.
The first period started okay enough. Dallas seemed to be tentatively feeling out the game, as did Toronto. Neither team was really lighting up the shot counter in the first 10 minutes of the game. Dallas got better as the frame moved along, breaking through to score first thanks to Luke Glendening. He was left all alone in front of the net and pounced on the rebound of a Tyler Seguin shot to give Dallas a 1-0 lead.
JUST HOW WE LUKE IT!!!
— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) October 20, 2022
They’d take that — and the lead in scoring chances — into the intermission.
Toronto adjusted. They came out flying to start the second period, hemming Dallas into their own zone and forcing them to play the Leafs’ style. That style led to a lot of penalties against Dallas. Like, a LOT a lot.
Toronto got five power play chances in the middle frame. It’s no wonder they tied the game up on the power play, then.
It’s not the complete reason for the goal against, but that shift featured Jani Hakanpaa playing 1:45 of the penalty kill. That means he hadn’t left the ice to get a change in the entire time. Those were some tired penalty killers, and that led to leaving a guy completely uncovered on the backdoor for a tap-in. Scott Wedgewood nearly got it, too, even after having to move across to try to make the save.
With the myriad of penalties that followed the rest of the period, Dallas was lucky to get out of it with the score tied. It wouldn’t last long into the third period, though. Toronto came out pushing yet again and less than two minutes in, the Leafs scored to take their first lead of the game.
Midway through the third period, Seguin scored to tie the game, 2-2, on a rare power play for Dallas. It wasn’t without controversy, though.
A GOAL IS A GOAL 💁♂️ Here is a look at the challenged goal…what do y’all think?
— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) October 21, 2022
Friend of the blog Erin had the best explanation of why the Stars’ goal was ultimately called as such even though it was initially waived off immediately after he scored it.
Here is the rule. When the contact is outside the crease (and the players were clearly outside the crease), you either give a penalty or allow the goal, and since they didn’t call the penalty because it was incidental contact, by rule it is a goal. pic.twitter.com/9jvtqSqbkL
— Erin (@ErinB_DBD) October 21, 2022
The Leafs brass definitely took the call well.
Jee Whizz Flipping Cripes pic.twitter.com/WwsZRHCvgO
— Ben Ennis (@SportsnetBen) October 21, 2022
With a whole new game, the Stars’ night in the penalty box continued even though they were looking better when they finally had a chance to play at even strength. With a strong push offensively after the tying goal, Dallas seemed to be getting some momentum only to have it interrupted with yet another penalty.
On the plus side, Dallas managed to find a way to get to overtime and get a point after a game that was less than their best. On the other hand, it’s hard to judge whether Toronto did enough to figure out how to beat the Stars’ system or whether the Stars well and truly just beat themselves in this one.
Nick Robertson, brother of Stars’ forward Jason Robertson, made a phenomenal play in overtime to break up a Stars scoring chance and then went the other way and scored the game-winning goal. He’s officially arrived as a NHL forward and it’ll be very hard for Toronto to send him back to the AHL after this performance.
Robertson breaks up the play at one end and scores the OT winner at the other end! pic.twitter.com/xrfhtDqtaC
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) October 21, 2022
In the grand scheme, Dallas didn’t have their best in the game and they still managed to escape with a point. That’s what coaches often refer to as “losing the right way”. Additionally, if you’re going to give up points in games, doing it against the Eastern Conference isn’t the worst time to do it versus against the divisional opponents Dallas opened the season with.
Seven points in eight games. Given the preseason, the new system, the new personnel, the new coaching staff…that’s not too bad. There’s still a lot to clean up. But it’s not too bad at all in Stars land right now.