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Leafs Can't Hold Lead In Loss To Stars

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
DALLAS -- James Neal's net-crashing habit paid off for the Dallas Stars.

Neal's rebound with 2:03 left in overtime gave the Stars a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.

Toronto rookie Jonas Gustavsson stopped Stephane Robidas' shot from long range, but Neal skated hard to the net to knock in the rebound for his seventh goal of the season and first of his career in overtime.

"It's a huge goal for him," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "We had talked all game long about playing a young goaltender that ... there are rebounds that will spray out. It took us all that time to get one and James was the benefactor by having a good habit and being in the right spot. When you do that, good things happen."

The Stars ended a four-game stretch of overtime futility this season. Dallas lost three shootouts and once in overtime before earning the extra point against Toronto.

"Any tight game, obviously it's still early in the season, but that's the type of hockey you want to play in the playoffs," Robidas said.

Brad Richards scored twice, Mike Ribeiro added a goal, and Marty Turco made 33 saves for the Stars. Nikolai Kulemin had two goals for Toronto, Lee Stempniak struck on the power play, and Jason Blake had three assists.

Ribeiro's deflection of Jamie Benn's shot with 2:45 left in regulation tied it at 3, and the Stars went on to control play in the extra session.

"I thought the overtime was our best period for whatever reason," Crawford said. "It looked like we had good command in our own zone, good control of the puck, and it looked like we had some sustainable pressure. Tonight we were able to persevere."

The Maple Leafs lost their first eight games before beating Anaheim 6-3 on the road Monday night, but Toronto was unable to string together a second straight win.

"With 5 minutes left in [regulation] and up a goal, you have to find ways to close those games out," Blake said. "It's a tough one to take, giving up a late goal, but you learn from that and move forward."

With the game tied at 2, Turco failed to control the rebound of Blake's shot, and Kulemin fired the loose puck under Turco at 13:11 of the third period before Ribeiro's tip-in tied it.

The Stars took advantage of a 5-on-3 to grab a 2-1 lead when Richards blasted a one-timer from the left circle past Gustavsson at 1:52 of the final period.

Toronto converted on the power play at 7:42 of the third period to tie it at 2 on Stempniak's one-timer from the left circle.

The Stars broke up a scoreless game at 15:13 of the second period, capitalizing on a fortunate bounce when Richards banked in a sharp-angled shot off the skate of Maple Leafs defenseman Ian White. Toronto tied it at 1 at 17:00 of the second when Kulemin stuffed the rebound of his own shot past Turco.
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