Bill Meltzer: Star Gazing: Dallas Falls in Final Game before Christmas Break

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Returning home off a sweep of a three-game western Canada road trip, the Dallas Stars hoped to churn out a top-notch effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Instead, the Maple Leafs rose to the occasion in a 4-0 shut out. With the National Hockey League breaking for three nights over Christmas, the Stars have a 14-14-5 record for the season.

Jonathan Bernier made 43 saves to earn the shutout victory for Toronto, while top line left winger James van Riemsdyk enjoyed a three-point game (one goal, two assists). Nazem Kadri got Toronto off to a 1-0 lead in the opening minute of the game, and the Leafs rolled from there. A mid-game power play goal by Tyler Bozak and a third-period empty net goal by Mike Santorelli rounded out the scoring. Kari Lehtonen stopped 22 of 25 shots in a losing cause.

In their two games against Toronto this season, Dallas trailed for 118:45 of the 120 minutes of hockey. Toronto outscored the Stars by a 9-3 margin overall.

Dallas went 0-for-4 on the power play. Over the course of the game, the Stars generated their share of quality chances and hit the post numerous times, but they were robbed repeatedly by Bernier when they got shots on goal.

Stars center Jason Spezza told the media after the game that the team cannot fool itself into chalking the loss up to bad luck. Chasing the game is not an ideal way to play hockey, despite the Stars’ resiliency and ability to score goals in comeback fashion.

Said Spezza, “We’re naïve if we don’t look at it and figure out why we’re not having better starts and giving up the first goal on the first shot, in the first couple shifts. I hope we don’t make it a thing. It’s definitely something the coaches will look at and let us know. We just have to get guys back early in games and not give up chances.”

The Stars return to action on Saturday night, traveling to St. Louis.