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Gardiner scores late, Maple Leafs rally past Stars

by Steve Hunt /

DALLAS -- Maybe the Toronto Maple Leafs really are a different team this season.

After falling behind in the third period, Toronto got goals from PA Parenteau and Jake Gardiner to rally for a 3-2 victory against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Tuesday.

"Yeah, I think (folding under pressure) was kind of our M.O. last year," Gardiner said. "That's not our team this year. We're going to keep competing until the end and never give up."

Peter Holland scored a power-play goal in the first period for the Maple Leafs (3-8-4), who ended their three-game losing streak (0-1-2) in the second of a three-game road trip.

"Well, I would say we didn't have a very good second period. We had a very good first and I thought we had a good third; we didn't have a very good second," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "Special teams were good, and we stuck with it and found a way to get a win, so good for us."

Toronto was 1-for-1 on the power play and on the penalty kill.

Gardiner scored the game-winner with 3:28 remaining. His slap shot from the right point deflected off the stick of Dallas center Colton Sceviour before beating goaltender Antti Niemi top shelf for his second goal.

"We're not a team that scores a lot of goals, so we got to play good defensively," Gardiner said. "When we get those chances, we got to capitalize."

Patrick Sharp and Vernon Fiddler scored for Dallas (12-4-0), which got two assists from Jason Demers but saw its three-game winning streak end.

"It's a tough one," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "They got a couple bounces. All our good chances didn't go in, and a couple that probably shouldn't, went in. That was the game."

Toronto goalie James Reimer made 36 saves.

"He's suddenly soft. The puck doesn't bounce all over the rink," Babcock said. "It just hits him in the stick, and he controls the rebound. I think he's done a real good job."

Holland opened the scoring by redirecting a Gardiner wrist shot with 1:22 left in the first period, striking the puck with a downward motion and sending it through Niemi's five-hole for his second goal.

Tyler Seguin nearly tied it for Dallas at 5:38 of the second with the Stars on the power play, but his wrist shot from the slot struck the crossbar.

Niemi made 27 saves, including a diving glove stop on Nazem Kadri 1:31 into the second period, denying the Toronto forward as he attempted to go far post with a wrist shot from the slot.

"He was good," Ruff said of Niemi. "I thought both goaltenders made big saves. I thought Antti made four really good saves that kept the game where it was."

Sharp scored an improbable goal late in the second to make it 1-1. After falling behind the Maple Leafs net earlier in the sequence, Sharp collected a pass from Demers off the end boards and beat Reimer to his short side at the far post at 19:26 for his seventh goal.

"You hate to be in the last minute of the second period (and give up a goal)," Babcock said. "We're in a great situation in the defensive zone, and suddenly it's in our net, so those are things we got to get better at, but it's a good feeling for our guys today."

Fiddler gave Dallas its only lead at 5:39 of the third period, scoring on a sharp-angled backhand that beat Reimer to his short side for his second goal.

"Yeah, I don't remember it," Reimer joked. "I just remember the win. Honestly, I saw he was trying to shoot high, so I just stayed up, and it went in. I'm not quite sure. Hey, we won, so that's all that matters."

Parenteau tied it 2-2 at 12:38 of the third with a wrist shot that deflected in off the left skate of Dallas defenseman Jordie Benn. It was his third goal.

It was the Stars' second loss on home ice (7-2-0). Each loss came in the first game after a long, successful road trip.

"It's unacceptable," Demers said of the third period. "I think we came together as a team and decided this year that stuff like that wasn't going to happen. You can call it what you like, but that's just giving away two points. We were in full control going into the third, and that's something we can't do anymore."

The Maple Leafs swept the two-game season series against the Stars; they won 4-1 in Toronto on Nov. 2.

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