Maple Leafs-Stars: Not So Merry For Toronto as Dallas Wins 8-2 Rout

Dino MoriAnalyst IDecember 23, 2008

The Dallas Stars had a pre-Christmas feast down at the Air Canada Center on Tuesday.

The Stars scored at will en route to a 8-2 drubbing over a road-weary Toronto Maple Leafs squad.

Whitby native James Neal scored a hat trick for Dallas, who also got goals from Fabbian Brunnstrom, Steve Ott, Mike Ribeiro, Krystopher Barch, and Brad Richards.  Jason Blake and Mikhail Grabovski replied for Toronto.

It was a disastrous opening 20 minutes for the Maple Leafs, who got back to Toronto in the wee hours of Tuesday morning from Dixie. The team was playing its third game in four nights, while the Stars have been off since Saturday's overtime loss to Ottawa. 

Toronto surrendered four goals to Dallas on just 11 shots in probably the worst period of hockey this season by the Maple Leafs.  The Leafs had 22 shots on Dallas goalkeeper Marty Turco on the night, while the Stars directed 37 on Vesa Toskala and replacement Curtis Joseph.

Toskala, who sat out Monday's 6-2 victory in Atlanta with a slight groin injury, wasn't sharp in his return. To be fair, his mates left him out to dry on two of the first four Star goals.

Neal put home a rebound past Toskala at 3:23 to give the Stars the lead at 1-0.  Neal was allowed a clear avenue to the net to register his ninth of the season as the Toronto defence converged on the puck-carrying Trevor Daley.

Ott made it 2-0 at 8:55, sneaking in the back door to tip home a pass from Mike Ribeiro after Leafs blueliner Tomas Kaberle gave up the puck behind the net to Swedish-born Fabbian Brunnstrom.

The Stars' Brunnstrom, using his great speed, walked around both the Leafs defence and Toskala to make it 3-0 at 10:45.

The onslaught continued when former Lightning forward Richards one-timed a slapshot past the beleaguered Toskala during a Dallas power play to increase the lead to 4-0.

Toronto heavyweight Andre Deveaux was in the box when the goal was scored after he took a needless roughing penalty on Ott.  Earlier in the period, he fought winger Krystopher Barch in a spirited tussle.

The second period was a carbon copy of the first as the Stars enjoyed the majority of play in the Leafs end.

Barch was in the right place at the right time, scoring from his knees to give Dallas a 5-0 cushion at 3:45.  It was a bad goal from a Leaf perspective, as Toskala gave up a juicy rebound off a backhand from Stars' winger Landon Wilson.

Less than seven minutes later, Ribeiro made it a 6-0 after depositing home a rebound at 10:15.  Once again, a Dallas forward was allowed to station himself in front of Toronto's goal with little interference.

After Neal scored to put the Stars up by seven, Leafs coach Ron Wilson mercifully pulled Toskala, who was booed off the ice, for Joseph. 

During a rare foray in the offensive zone, Blake re-directed Dominic Moore's centering pass, to put the Leafs on the board at 15:33.  It was his seventh goal of the year, with the secondary assist going to Tomas Kaberle.   

Less than two minutes into the third, Deveaux and Barch exchanged Christmas punches for the second time on the night.  Both received five-minute fighting majors on the play, much to delight of the pre-holiday crowd.

Grabovski cut the Leafs deficit to 7-2, putting home a rebound from a Deveaux close in attempt.  It was the diminutive forward's 12th goal of the season, to go along with nine assists.

For good measure, the Toronto-area Neal, who probably grew up watching Joseph completed his first ever NHL hat-trick beating Cujo threw the legs at 18:34 on a Stars power-play.

Following a two-day Christmas hiatus, Toronto will be on Long Island for a Boxing Day affair in Uniondale.