October 22, 2003 DALLAS (AP)
- Joe Nieuwendyk circled this night on his calendar, and it turned out perfectly.
Nieuwendyk's tiebreaking, power-play goal with 6:58 remaining and Ed Belfour's 15 saves lifted the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars.
"I was looking forward to this game,'' said Nieuwendyk, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP when Dallas won its only Stanley Cup title in 1999. "It felt really good to come in and score against my former teammates. It was a great night for us. I hope this is a springboard for us for good things ahead.''
Nieuwendyk's deflection of Mats Sundin's shot got past Dallas goalie Marty Turco to break a 1-1 tie. Sundin earned an assist, his first point this season, on Nieuwendyk's first goal for the Leafs.
"Sometimes the simplest play is to put it on net in traffic, especially when Marty's seeing the puck the way he is,'' Nieuwendyk said. "Mats made a great play on it.''
Nieuwendyk played in Dallas for the first time since the Stars traded him to the New Jersey Devils on March 19, 2002. Nieuwendyk was a member of the Cup-winning Devils last season, but was injured and did not play in the final.
"It was disappointing to me to be traded when I was,'' Nieuwendyk said. "But I've certainly had time to get over it. Last year winning the Cup was a great experience.''
Nieuwendyk scored many goals for the Stars in similar fashion.
"I'm sure he's pretty happy about the one he got,'' Stars forward Rob DiMaio said. "It wasn't pretty, just a deflection. He's done that his whole career.''
Belfour, Dallas' goaltender during its championship run, made the goal stand up. Robert Reichel scored into an empty net for the Maple Leafs with 22.7 seconds left.
"It was awesome to get the win and to see Joe get the goal,'' said Belfour, who was cheered when introduced with the Toronto starters. "It goes to show you how fans remember the efforts that Joe gave here and the good years we had in winning the Stanley Cup.''
Turco, Belfour's backup when they played together on the Stars from 2000-2002, stopped 21 shots for Dallas.
Turco's busiest spell of the game came early in the third period when the Maple Leafs got off seven shots on a power play. Turco made a sharp glove save on Darcy Tucker's rebound attempt with 14:44 remaining.
The Maple Leafs were without three of their top players: forwards Alex Mogilny and Mikael Renberg and defenceman Bryan McCabe. All were out because of injuries.
Mike Modano gave the Stars a 1-0 lead at 6:47 of the opening period when he fired a loose puck past Belfour from the slot. It was his second goal of the season.
Alexei Ponikarovsky tied it 1-1 for Toronto at 12:53 of the second period when his deflection of Ken Klee's point shot sneaked through Turco's pads. Ponikarovsky scored his first goal of the season and fourth of his career.Notes:
The Stars honoured F Kirk Muller before the game. Muller, who played for both Dallas and Toronto, announced his retirement over the summer. ... Stars RW Jere Lehtinen was scratched for the fifth straight game due to back spasms. ... Dallas C Steve Ott assisted on Modano's goal, Ott's first point of the season. ... Toronto had been winless against Dallas in the previous three meetings (0-2-1). ... Belfour is the NHL's active leader among goaltenders with 403 victories. He tied Grant Fuhr for sixth on the career list.