The road continues to be unkind to the Dallas Stars. The Stars lost for the 12th time in their past 16 road games, falling 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre Tuesday night.
And for the fourth time in their past five road games, the Stars scored one goal or fewer. But the opportunities were there Tuesday night. They had 40 shots on goal and 75 shot attempts. They had a four-minute power play they failed to take advantage of early in the game.
"We have had the opportunities," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We had the looks. We did a good job on entries and had the zone time. We just haven't connected on some of the prime opportunities."
Penalties hurt as well. Just after the Stars had cut the Toronto lead to 2-1 early in the third period, they took three penalties in just over two minutes, and the Maple Leafs extended the lead with a five-on-three power play goal. The Stars didn't like the third penalty, which was a hand on the puck faceoff violation against Radek Faksa.
"He didn't even touch the puck," Ruff said.
But the other penalties thwarted whatever momentum the Stars were building.
"That's kind of been the story of the season," said defenseman Dan Hamhuis. "The way we've been finding ways to lose is by taking penalties."
Tyler Seguin scored the lone goal for the Stars. Antti Niemi got the start in net and was solid in making 31 saves. The Stars (21-23-10) lost their third straight game overall and fell to seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"Look in the mirror. Dig deeper," said Seguin. "We've got to hold each other accountable and get out of this together."
Curtis McElhinney made 39 saves, and Jake Gardiner had one goal and one assist for the Maple Leafs, who improved to 25-17-10 and moved two points ahead of Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division. Toronto allowed just the one goal after having surrendered 22 in its past four games.
"[Our compete] was great, especially in front of our net," McElhinney said. "We did a much better job tonight. Most of those shots were generated from the outside, and I thought the guys battled real hard inside."
The Stars had a 16-10 shots advantage in the first period, but Toronto scored the only goal. Mitch Marner set up Gardiner, who scored off a blast from the point at the 9:09 mark.
The Stars went on a four-minute power play late in the first when Leafs forward Nazem Kadri took hooking and cross-checking minors on the same shift. The Stars put six shots on goal during the two power plays but didn't score. Toronto had two power play chances in the second and failed to score, but did extend their lead late in the period when Auston Matthews tipped a Gardiner point shot past Niemi to make it a 2-0 game at the 17:32 mark.
The Stars cut into the lead 4:00 into the third with a power-play goal. After a Cody Eakin faceoff win, Seguin scored a shot from the slot to make it a 2-1 game.
But less than a minute later, Eakin took a cross checking penalty that would start a string of penalties for the Stars that gave Toronto consecutive five-on-three power play chances. The first five-on-three came after Adam Cracknell was called for goaltender interference. But just after the Stars killed off that five-on-three, Faksa was called for a faceoff violation, giving the Leafs another two-man advantage.
Toronto's Nikita Zaitsev scored from the top of the circle on the second five-on-three, giving the Leafs a 3-1 lead at 7:26 of the third period.
"If you look at the Faksa call, that was a tough call. That was a tough call after we killed one off," Ruff said. "The Eakin penalty is one we can't take. It was undisciplined. We were just getting back in the game, and we gave them a little bit of life."
The Stars had a late power-play chance, but couldn't cut into the lead and then pulled Niemi with just over three minutes remaining but couldn't get another puck past McElhinney.
*The Stars outshot the Maple Leafs 40-34 and had a 75-62 advantage in shot attempts.
*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with 9 shots on goal and 11 shot attempts.
*The Stars were 1-4 on the power play and 4-5 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 31 of 64 faceoffs (48 percent). Cody Eakin won 18 of 29 (62 percent).
*Eakin led Dallas with 7 hits and with 3 blocked shots.
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 25:36 of ice time. Dan Hamhuis was next with 23:20.
The Stars wrap up the two-game trip Thursday in Ottawa. It will be the first meeting of the season between the Stars and Senators.
Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Jiri Hudler - Tyler Seguin - Brett Ritchie
Devin Shore - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel - Adam Cracknell - Curtis McKenzie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn
Patrik Nemeth - Stephen Johns
Scratched: Curtis McKenzie, Julius Honka
Injured: Jason Spezza (upper body), Johnny Oduya (lower body), Jamie Oleksiak (hand), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.