It was another high scoring victory for the Maple Leafs.
Through 24 games played this season, Toronto have registered five or more goals on eight different occasions. That’s every third game on average. But on this night, the offensive output didn’t make the team feel like they outperformed the Dallas Stars in a 5-3 win.
“I said the same thing to the players that we’re going to take the two points,” said Randy Carlyle immediately following the game. “But we can’t be happy with the sloppiness in which we played. Let’s be realistic. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We have to come to work tomorrow to improve on that because we cannot continue to play that style of game and think we’re going to have success.”
The game started like many others during their recent stretch of games.
Tyler Bozak opened the scoring just 27 seconds into the game with his 12th goal of the season.
Nazem Kadri followed that up with his first goal in five games, to give Toronto a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
The second period saw much of the same with another pair of goals for Toronto’s Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.
Dallas got on the board early in the second frame with Jason Spezza’s fifth goal of the year.
With a three goal lead, the Leafs found themselves with a chance to put their foot on Dallas’ proverbial neck.
Penalties to Cody Eakin and Antoine Roussel resulted in a five-on-three advantage for 1:12. The Leafs couldn’t capitalize and a turnover during that span resulted in a breakaway for Jamie Benn that was saved by Leafs netminder Jonathan Bernier.
The three goal Leafs lead carried over to the third, where Dallas began applying pressure. Dallas forward Ryan Garbutt cut the Leafs lead down to two. Lupul would respond with his second of the game just a few minutes later. But Dallas refused to fade away, constantly applying pressure and forcing turnovers.
“I thought tonight was probably our worst game of the stretch that we’ve had. But when you score many goals it’s hard mentally to stay sharp and play defensively,” said Bernier. “We got the two points so that’s all that matters.”
The even keel approach is good. Both teams combined for 29 giveaways and the Leafs allowed 38 shots on goal, the busiest Bernier has been in what was his sixth consecutive start between the pipes.
Right now, the Leafs offence continues to be hot and so is Tyler Bozak, who has a career high four game goal scoring streak (six in that span). Bozak and Kessel are tied for the team lead in goals with 12 on the year.
Mike Santorelli has quietly raised his stock on the Leafs. He’s riding a four-game point streak and recorded three assists in a game for the first time in his career.
“He been a pleasant surprise. I didn’t think in reviewing his training camp that he was going to be all that dynamic,” said Carlyle. “What we found is that he’s a much better winger than a centre. He’s much more comfortable, his work ethic is very noticeable on the wing and I think that has been enlightening to everybody.”
The Leafs offence have carried them well. They have scored 11 goals on 64 shots over their past two games. That is large in part to the taking advantage of their opportunities, given by an opposition that made more than its share of mistakes.
“I thought we had enough chances to win the game tonight,” said Dallas coach Lindy Ruff. “I know we gave up too many, but you get down, then you’ve got to push. Effort-wise, the effort was there.”
Wednesday’s practice will likely emphasize shutting down the opposition and cracking down defensively. But for now, the Leafs potent offence has them five games above .500 for the first time this season.
NOTES: The Maple Leafs improved to 10-0-0 this season when scoring the first goal of the game. Only three wins have come when trailing first. Joffrey Lupul has more point in the last two games (2-2, four points) than he has had in his previous 10 games this season. (2-1, three points). Nazem Kadri had his first three point night of the season and scored a goal for the first time in five games. Dion Phaneuf played in his 300th game as captain of the Leafs and his first multipoint game of the season (two assists). Cody Franson recorded his 100th point as a Leaf with two assists on the night.