Leafs offense stalls again in loss to Stars

A better effort ended with the same frustrating result for the Maple Leafs.

It seems that the root of Leaf’s problems goes deeper than the missing duo of Auston Matthews and William Nylander. Matthews remains sidelined with a  shoulder injury, while Nylander remains in Sweden due to a stall in contract negotiations.

Dallas backup goalie Anton Khudobin made 31 saves — including a tremendous late stop from a Mitch Marner shot, as the Stars heaped more home misery on Toronto with a 2-1 victory on Thursday.

The Leafs (8-5-0) had decidedly more jump than in Monday’s hopeless 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Arena, but it wasn’t enough as the club fell to a surprising 3-5-0 in Toronto this season.

Despite a high-powered attack that put up 33 goals in seven games to open their campaign, Toronto has now failed to find the back of the oppositions net in the first two periods of five consecutive home games.

Jamie Benn and Devin Shore scored for the Stars (7-5-0), who picked up their second straight win on the road after losing three straight games at the beginning of the season.

Patrick Marleau scored the single goal for the Leafs and Frederik Andersen made 17 saves as the Leafs lost for the fourth time in six outings.

Toronto defender Ron Hainsey, who suited up for the 1,000th game of his NHL career said: “We played much better than Monday, which was our focus, the result was not what we wanted, but a step in the right direction.”

Fresh off their first road triumph of the season with Tuesday’s 4-1 decision over the Montreal Canadiens, the Stars snapped a scoreless tie at 11:55 of second period just as a Leafs penalty expired.

Seguin fired a shot from the top of the left face-off circle that Benn tipped past Andersen for his fifth goal of the campaign and first in eight games.

Leafs had their best chance on another Dallas power play later in the period when Khudobin gave the puck away to Marner, but the Stars goalie recovered to make an effective save.

The visitors came close to taking the lead earlier in the second on a 2-on-1 rush, but Andersen was there to stop Jason Dickinson’s effort off a pass from Brett Ritchie.

Marner and Tavares were then stopped at the other end by Khudobin, who made his third start as the Stars goalie, with Ben Bishop getting the night off.

The Leafs came close on a power play with the score still 1-0 early in the third, but the Stars doubled their lead at 4:43 when Shore buried a nice feed from Mattias Janmark for his third of the campaign and second in as many games following a three-point night in Montreal.

Marner missed another great chance during a Leafs power play, before Khudobin was there to stop a Nazem Kadri redirection.

The Leafs continued to push, but Tavares lost the puck on a 2-on-1 break before Marner fanned on the follow up for a sequence that summed up the home sides evening.

Marleau then hit the post on a shot that went across the face of Khudobin’s goal, the puck bounced back through the crease, struck the goalkeepers leg and dribbled wide.

The Leafs finally got within one, scoring on a power play at 16:51 with Andersen on the bench for a 6-on-4 advantage when Marleau scored his second from the side of the net.

Tavares had the puck roll off his stick, another great chance for the Leafs with just over one minute to play before Marner was stoned by Khudobin in the final seconds of a period where the Leafs outshone Dallas 16-4 and directed 31 attempts towards goal compared to the Stars’ eight.

It doesn’t get easier from here. It’s Pittsburgh on Saturday night. Leafs will again be without star man Matthews, but fortunes will need to change if the Leafs have any expectations this campaign.

Next Up: Maple Leafs at Pittsburgh Penguins – Saturday, November 3, 2018 at 7:00pm EST

Peace,

Burke

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