BY: Jeff Schneberk
The Leafs made it close again, like they usually do, gave up the tying goal late in the game, but for only the second time this season, finished the game in overtime.
Nazem Kadri scored only his eighth and ninth goals of the season; the first was a low shot from point-blank range, the second was deflection of a point shot by Jake Gardiner, who has been the subject of trade rumours lately.
“I still get choked up talking about it,” Kadri told reporters after the game after they bombarded the Leafs’ top centre with question about Kadri’s family tragedy this week as he lost his grandfather.
“I still think we can play better, but I think tonight was definitely one of my better ones,” Kadri added. “That (win) was big for us, obviously we’re decimated with some injuries.”
Head Coach Randy Carlyle gave his usual press conference after the game, saying that considering all the games they have played without a full line up, they are sitting right in the middle of the pack in the NHL.
It didn’t come easy after giving up a late power-play goal, but the Leafs snapped their five-game skid by beating the Dallas Stars 3-2 in overtime Thursday night at Air Canada Centre.
Trevor Smith scored 4:18 into overtime for the Leafs, who won for the first time since Nov. 23 despite being outshot for the 10th consecutive game, this time 50-24.
Nazem Kadri scored twice for the Leafs (15-11-3) in his return from a one-game absence to attend his grandfather’s funeral. It looked like his second goal would stand up as goaltender Jonathan Bernier made 42 saves in regulation.
Here are the best parts in a video called ‘The Game in Six Minutes’. Keep an eye out for Bernier’s save of the season about a minute in, and Trevor’s Smith’s OT winner with 23 seconds left.
http://mapleleafs.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=694673 (courtesy of the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club).
Bernier made 48 saves counting overtime, but it didn’t have to get to that point. Toronto’s best penalty-killerJay McClement took a tripping penalty late in the third and former Edmonton Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff scored when he tipped Kevin Connauton’s shot past Bernier at 17:14.
It looked like Horcoff had a goal at the 9:42 mark of the third when he deflected Vernon Fiddler’s power-play point shot in. But referees waved it off immediately and video review upheld the no-goal decision because of a high stick.
Before that moment, it was Kadri’s night.
The day after his grandfather’s funeral, Kadri acknowledged that the failing health of the 77-year-old, also his namesake, distracted him. He kept checking in to see how his grandfather was doing and was caught by surprise when he died Monday morning.
Kadri had just three points in six games after returning from suspension Nov. 23. Injury woes up and down the lineup deserve some responsibility for that.
But yet another injury — this time Tyler Bozak’s oblique strain — gave Kadri a prime opportunity to centre the top line of James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel. With Dave Bolland also out, it wasn’t like coach Randy Carlyle had any other choice but to slide Kadri into that spot.
Nevertheless Kadri made the most of his promotion against the Stars (13-10-4), scoring 58 seconds into the second period off some sharp passes from Kessel and van Riemsdyk, who got tangled up with Dallas defenceman Trevor Daley before setting up the goal.
With Daley writhing in pain in the corner, Kessel won a puck battle with Stars centre Tyler Seguin, who returned after missing two games with a concussion, and sent the puck to van Riemsdyk, who found Kadri for his eighth of the season.
Daley had to be helped off the ice by teammates Alex Chiasson and Alex Goligoski and did not return with what the Stars announced as a lower-body injury. Dallas is already short on its blue-line without Stephane Robidas, who suffered a broken leg Nov. 19 against Chicago.
The Stars tied it early in the third period, taking advantage of a bad change by the Leafs. Erik Cole left the puck in open ice for rookie Valeri Nichushkin, then went to the net.
Nichushkin got it to Horcoff, who tapped it to Cole at the side of the net for his fourth goal of the season 1:58 into the third.
But Kadri wasn’t done making an impact in his return. At the 6:58 mark of the third, Kadri skated in front of the net and tipped defenceman Cody Franson’s point shot past Lehtonen to make it 2-1 Leafs.
This was the first game between the Stars and Leafs since Nov. 25, 2011. Only 10 players who took part in that game played Thursday night, including Lehtonen.
A lack of familiarity didn’t stop some chippiness in the first period. Van Riemsdyk went at it with Jamie Oleksiak, Kadri with Brendan Dillon and Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf with Stars counterpart Jamie Benn. Phaneuf and Benn each got two-minute minors for roughing as linesmen prevented full-fledged fights from breaking out.
NOTES — The Leafs held a pre-game moment of silence to honour the death of Nelson Mandela. His name along with his dates of birth and death were put on the scoreboard along with a profile photo of the South African leader. … Winger Jerry D’Amigo, called up earlier in the day as the Leafs placed Bozak and enforcerColton Orr on injured reserve and Jerred Smithson cleared waivers, made his NHL debut playing on the fourth line. … Defenceman Morgan Rielly was a healthy scratch for the Leafs as Cody Franson returned after missing three games with a lower-body injury. … Van Riemsdyk was presented with the Molson Cup as Toronto’s top player in November. He had five goals and two assists last month.
The Maple Leafs have set up a web page dedicated to their first-ever appearance in an outdoor hockey game. On January 1 they play Detroit at the University of Michigan Stadium.
NEXT GAME: At Sens
Leafs and Sens Mirror Images of Each Other
MAPLE LEAFS (15-11-3) at SENATORS (11-14-4)
Last 10: Toronto 4-4-2; Ottawa 3-7-0
Season series: This is the second of four games between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. The Atlantic Division rivals played on Oct. 5, when Mason Raymond scored in the shootout to deliver the Maple Leafs a 5-4 victory. Raymond had a goal and two assists in regulation, as did Kyle Turris of the Senators.
On the Line: Ottawa sits only four points back of the Blue and White, and everyone knows anything goes when the two clubs get together. If this was April and a playoff spot was on the line tonight’s game could determine who makes it and who doesn’t. Leafs are fifth place in the Atlantic which translates into eighth seed overall in the Conference.
The results are huge for Leafs at this point, December will be the roughest month of the season so far with eight matches against Western conference teams, plus a date with Boston on Sunday night.
Maple Leafs: Trevor Smith (callup from the Marlies) scored perhaps Toronto’s biggest goal to this point and goalie Jonathan Bernier turned in a lights-out performance at just right the time when the Maple Leafs snapped a five-game losing streak Thursday with a 3-2 overtime win against the Dallas Stars.
Smith, who’s taken on a larger role of late due to injuries, deflected a Jake Gardiner shot with 41.4 seconds left in OT to reward Bernier, who stopped 48 shots. It was a nice rebound effort after he yielded 13 goals over his past three starts.
“My job is to go out there and give my team a chance to win and I thought my last couple of games I wasn’t very good,” Bernier said in the Toronto Sun. “I needed to come here and play the way I could play.”
Senators: The Sens are coming off of a 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Patrick Wiercioch scored a power-play goal during a second period in which the Senators held an 18-7 advantage in shots, but that was all the offense they could manage.
Coach Paul MacLean said his team must play harder. The players realize something needs to change.
“We’re just finding ways to lose,” Wiercioch said in the Ottawa Citizen. “It becomes a habit. When you’re winning, you don’t accept getting down in games.”
Who’s hot: Nazem Kadri scored both of the Maple Leafs’ goals in regulation Thursday after missing the previous game due to the death of his grandfather. Phil Kessel has three goals and three assists during a five-game point streak. … Wiercioch has one goal and three assists in the past five games for the Senators.
Injury report: Toronto placed forwards Tyler Bozak (oblique strain) and Colton Orr (elbow) on injured reserve Thursday, where they joined forwards Dave Bolland (ankle) and Joffrey Lupul (groin). … The Senators report no injuries