Logan Lockhart
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Maple Leafs Look Lifeless for Most of Game, Lose 3-2 to Stars

Tyler Seguin’s power play goal a minute into the third period led the Dallas Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Thursday night.  


With the game-winner, Seguin broke his 17-game scoreless drought. Denis Gurianov and Radek Faksa also appeared on the score sheet for Dallas.  


Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman were the goal scorers for Toronto. Despite starting the game on different lines, the two players found themselves back playing together mid-way through the second period, like it has been much throughout the season.


The teams met only two weeks ago, where the Maple Leafs played one its better games of the season, defeating the Stars 5-3 in Dallas. A lot has changed for Toronto since that effort. The Leafs have gone 2-2-2 since that game, missing Andersen for most of that span. 


After missing four consecutive starts, Frederik Andersen returned to the crease for Toronto. The Leafs have gone to overtime in its three previous games, where Jack Campbell took the injured Andersen’s spot in net. 


The night for Andersen did not start the way he had hoped in his return. Denis Gurianov scored his 17th       on the first Dallas shot of the game only 1:20 into the first period.   


Gurianov’s goal counts the seventh time this season the Leafs have allowed a goal on the first shot of the game. On the flip side, the Maple Leafs didn’t strike a shot on goal until the nine-minute mark of the first period.  


The teams combined only for a total of nine shots in the first period, with the Maple Leafs taking three of them, as the first period ended with Dallas leading 1-0. 


Unfortunately for Andersen, the second period started as a carbon copy to the first. As Radek Faksa went off on a partial breakaway, he beat the Leafs netminder 24 seconds into the frame to give the Stars a 2-0 lead. 


Nothing was going right for Toronto as the first half of the second period continued. The Maple Leafs looked lifeless, taking two penalties as well as occupying almost no offensive zone time. The turning point of the period surrounded the new addition of the forward group—Kyle Clifford. 


Clifford dropped the gloves with Stars defenceman Jamie Oleksiak at 5:55 of the second period and his physicality seemed to energize the Maple Leafs, with the team seeing its best scoring opportunities in the game up to that point after the tilt.  


The new-found energy for Toronto also earned them its first power play of the game after Corey Perry tripped Auston Matthews 10:14 into the second period, and the Leafs capitalized. Auston Matthews continued his Rocket Richard trophy bid, scoring his 41st of the season to cut the Stars lead in half. 


John Tavares took a penalty 1:11 into the third period, making it three consecutive periods where the Leafs have gotten off to a poor start to a frame. And it only got worse. On the ensuing power play, Stars leading scorer Tyler Seguin capitalized, snapping his 17-game scoreless drought, extending the Stars lead to 3-1.  


The Seguin goal put the Leafs hopes of playing stronger at the beginning of periods to bed. In all three frames of the game, Toronto allowed a goal on the first Stars shot of the respective period.  


The game remained 3-1 for the majority of the period with both teams trading stellar scoring chances until Zach Hyman pulled the Leafs back within one at 18:41. With Andersen pulled, the Leafs could not find the equalizer with the extra attacker, as the Stars collected its third victory in a row. Despite coming on strong in the final minute of the game, Stars goaltender Ben Bishop stood his ground, securing the one-goal win. 


The bad news only continues for Toronto. After a collision with teammate Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson left the game favoring an injured right knee ten minutes into the first period. He did not return.


For the second straight game, Sheldon Keefe’s new experiment of playing Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander on same line did not pay off the way the Leaf’s coaching staff had hoped. The line struggled to generate zone time and take a sufficient number of shots on goal. The line was broken up half-way through the second period. 


Bishop made 29 saves, while Andersen stopped 16 in a losing effort.  


The Maple Leafs will be back at it Saturday night, as they travel to Ottawa to battle the Senators.