Coming into this one, Mitch Marner was riding a new franchise record 19 game point streak. He started this one with a noticeable jump in his step as he almost extended the streak to 20 games on the game’s opening shift. Also worth noting that Ontario native Conor Timmins was making his Leafs debut in this one as well. Unfortunately, as the Stars went the other way, Marner was called for tripping Stars veteran Joe Pavelski. Marner tried to argue that Pavelski dove, and I would have to agree with him. Pavelski went down relatively easily. The Stars managed to generate five shots on goal with the man advantage but to no avail.
Marner went right back to work his next shift after the penalty was over, and he set up John Tavares for his 13th goal of the year at 4:51 to open the scoring and to extend his point streak to an incredibly impressive 20 games. The second assist on the goal went to Mark Giordano. With 10:25 remaining in the opening period, the Stars broke free on a 2-on-1, with Matthews being the last Leaf back. Marchmen bodied Matthews into Matt Murray, resulting in an interference penalty giving the Leafs their first power play of the night. Thankfully Murray didn’t look any worse for wear after the collision. The man advantage could not have gone much worse for the blue and white as they gave up multiple odd-man rushes. First, another 2-on-1 followed up by a 3-on-1 shortly after. Murray did his part as he shut the door both times, keeping it a 1-0 Leafs lead. Every time Marner was on the ice, it seemed like he was generating something in the offensive zone. With just over 5 minutes left in the frame, Victor Mete took a hit that obviously stung him, and he went to the Leafs bench in some obvious discomfort. With under 3 minutes to go in the period, Auston Matthews had an absolute monster of a shift as he ripped his 13th goal past Jake Oettinger. The goal was unassisted. That goal extends Matthews’ point streak to 5 games. While the Leafs were outshot in the opening frame, it did not feel that way. The Leafs generated a lot of grade A scoring chances. The Stars held the advantage in shots on goal after 20 minutes, as they had 16 to the Leafs 11. TOI leader for the blue and white at the end of the first period was Justin Holl with 9:36.
As the second period got underway, play-by-play announcer, Chris Cuthbert, let it be known that Victor Mete’s night was over and he would not return to tonight’s game. Add Mete to an ever-growing list of Leafs defensemen who have been hit by the injury bug this season. 1:04 into the middle frame, Justin Holl was called for tripping Stars captain Jamie Benn giving the Stars their second power play of the night. The Leafs did a fantastic job killing off the man advantage, as the Stars didn’t even generate a shot on goal. Shortly after the Leafs penalty expired, the Stars were called for a penalty of their own as Luke Glendening was called for interference on William Nylander at 3:36. The Leafs top unit spent the entire 2 minutes of the power play in the Stars zone applying relentless pressure, and they did everything but score. As the power play was expiring, the Stars managed to get a breakaway, but somehow Matthews managed to get back after a 2 minute shift to disrupt the scoring chance. The parade to the penalty box continued in this one as Pierre Engvall was called for a double minor as he high-sticked Jason Robertson and drew blood.
The Leafs with another outstanding job killing off that 4 minute Stars man advantage. After the penalty kill, the Leafs went right back to work and once again applied a relentless offensive zone attack resulting in another goal as Rasmus Sandin fired home his 2nd of the year at 12:19. Michael Bunting, with the lone assist on the 3-0 goal. Believe it or not, the Leafs were penalized yet again right after the Sandin goal. This time, for too many men, classic Leafs if we are being honest. Once again, the Leafs manage to kill it off, making the Stars 0/5 with the man advantage tonight. The Leafs parade to the penalty box was getting comical at this point. This time it was Mark Giordano who shot the puck out of play in his own zone resulting in a delay of game penalty giving the Stars their 6th, yes 6th, power play of the game. Through their first five power plays, they generated 14 shots but have yet to score. Just 22 seconds into the 5-on-4, Justin Holl made an absolutely idiotic decision and chose to catch the puck and throw it out of the zone resulting in a closing hand on the puck minor, giving the Stars a 5-on-3 for 1:38. What a sequence for the 3 penalty killers and Matt Murray! Marner’s stick shattered and the Leafs were hemmed in their zone, but they were determined to not give up a goal. All three guys on the ice threw themselves in front of every shot, and Murray also made some unbelievable saves. I couldn’t help but hear Leafs play-by-play announcer Joe Bowen’s call from a previous Leafs game when the Leafs did a fantastic job closing out a game with a bunch of blocked shots. It went a little something like this, “A block! Another block! They are diving all over the place! God bless you, boys!”. If you know, you know. The Leafs managed to get to the end of the period with their 3-0 lead still intact and just 5 seconds remaining in the 5-on-3. Shots on goal in the middle frame were 18-11 Dallas, and after 40 minutes, they were 33-21 in favor of the Stars. Absolutely no shock, given how many power plays they had. TOI leader after 40 minutes was Timothy Liljegren with 16:39.
The Leafs killed off the remainder of the 5-on-3 to kick off the start of the 3rd period. In the first 5 minutes of the 3rd, both teams were trading chances back and forth—an electric pace to an already insane game. The Leafs had yet to surrender a single shot on goal over 7 minutes into the period, a much deserved “break” for Murray, to say the least! Matt Murray’s incredible play was on full display during another sequence where he was forced to come up with another pair of incredible saves. Not only did he make the saves, he did so in a composed way. The guy simply does not get phased and does not panic, no matter the situation. The Stars elected to pull the goalie with over 5 minutes remaining in regulation. They were down by three, after all, so why not. Alex Kerfoot managed to find the empty net for his 2nd of the year and his first goal in 22 games with 3:53 to go. Timothy Liljegren with the lone assist on the 4-0 goal. The Leafs would keep the Stars off the board, giving Matt Murray his first shutout as a Leaf, and to say he deserved it would be an understatement as he made a whopping 44 saves to seal the deal! What an unbelievable performance from start to finish in this one from the Ontario native! Also worth noting, with his 23:24 in ice time tonight, Mark Giordano has played 12 consecutive games with at least 20 minutes in ice time, not too bad for a 38 year old! Can we all just take a second to appreciate the value he provides to the Leafs organization both on and off the ice with his $850,000 cap hit? Shots on goal in the final frame were 12-7 in favor of the Stars. They also held the advantage overall, with 44 shots on goal to the Leafs 29. TOI leader in this one was Justin Holl with 25:58. Timothy Liljegren, who had a fantastic game, was literally one second behind Holl with 25:57.
Tonight’s Three Stars
- Matt Murray – 44 Save Shutout
- Auston Matthews – 1 Goal 1 Assist
- Mitch Marner – 1 Assist
The Leafs return home for a three game homestand which sees the LA Kings coming to town on Thursday. Followed by the Calgary Flames on Saturday and, finally, the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.
For more Leafs news and in-game tweets, follow me on Twitter @mikethefanatic! Also, be sure to check out The Leafs Late Night Podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts!