DALLAS -- Not all wins are pretty. But the Toronto Maple Leafs were more than happy to leave Dallas with two points on a night when they weren't the best team on the ice for much of the night.
Joffrey Lupul scored in the third round of the shootout to give the Leafs a 4-3 victory against the Dallas Stars before the first sellout crowd of the season at American Airlines Center.
"It was a good win for us," Lupul said. "We didn’t play that well in the second period, we let them back in the game, but we played really well in the third period and it was a hard-fought game right to the end."
After the first four shooters failed to score in the tiebreaker, Lupul zipped a forehand shot past Kari Lehtonen. Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson then denied Mike Ribeiro's backhander for the win. Ribeiro deked Gustavsson, but the big goaltender got just enough of the shot with his pad to keep it from crossing the goal line.
"It was [a total team effort]," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "We lost a couple of guys in the second period and the bench got kind of short. But we had to weather a couple of storms. [Gustavsson] obviously came up big in the third period in a few of those situations. Then, [Gustavsson] came up big again in the shootout against some guys that are pretty good."
The Stars outshot Dallas 14-6 in the third and controlled play for lengthy stretches, but flew to Phoenix for Saturday's game against the Coyotes with only one point.
"We worked hard," forward Radek Dvorak said. "It’s too bad we came up with just one point, but it shows that we can play the whole 60 minutes. If you want to keep putting points on the board and if you want to play our game, you have to work hard and we did that."
Dallas took an early 1-0 lead when Eric Nystrom scored his sixth of the season, beating Gustavsson on his glove side with a 20-foot wrister 4:03 into the game. The sequence began when Jamie Benn dug a puck out along the right boards before laying it off to Michael Ryder, who got the primary assist.
Toronto got even at 10:55 when Joey Crabb fired home the rebound of Dion Phaneuf's blue-line blast for the equalizer.
The visitors took their first lead of the evening at 14:53 when Phaneuf blistered a 55-foot power-play slap shot that trickled over the goal line for his third tally of the season. Lehtonen appeared to have stopped Phaneuf’s blast from the right point, which struck the Dallas netminder between his right arm and pad, but the puck came out and went over the line.
Nystrom tied it for a second time at 4:38 of the second period, capping a quick sequence with his seventh goal of the season, a wrister that beat Gustavsson to his right. Benn got his second assist of the night by feeding Radek Dvorak who set Nystrom up for the goal.
It was the third multiple-goal game of Nystrom’s career. The other two came during his time in Calgary and all three performances have come against Canadian teams.
The Leafs took a 3-2 lead at 6:55 of the final period when Clarke MacArthur scored his eighth of the season when a pass from Tim Connolly deflected off his left skate and ended up in the back of the net. But the Stars answered at 12:47 when Dvorak scored for the second time as a Star, beating Gustavsson top shelf on the left side with a 20-foot wrister after a solid pass from Mike Ribeiro.
"I don’t know what you can say about that line [that Nystrom and Dvorak play on]," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. "They bring it every night. They have passion, they skate and they work. They’re all in every night and they’re a real effective group for us and they help us a ton. Dvorak’s goal was a big goal for us."
Gustavsson stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced while Lehtonen faced 23 shots from the Leafs, stopping 20.
Wilson specifically singled out two members of his defensive core for the solid performances they turned in against Dallas.
"Luke [Schenn] easily played his best game of the season and Jake Gardiner was right there too, skating the puck out of a lot of trouble. Those guys had a great game," Wilson said.
The Stars' improved play, a holiday weekend and a rare visit from the Leafs helped the Stars fill the building.
"That was a lot of fun," Nystrom said. "It was a great atmosphere in there. It’s fun playing against a team like this. They have a lot of fans in the building, and they have a lot of skill up front. It’s a nice change from the monotony of the schedule.
"When it comes down to a shootout it’s chance, and those you kind of take with a grain of salt. We played really hard tonight, we did a lot of good things, and we have to continue doing that."
1 - 0 DAL