The Toronto Maple Leafs ended their three-game losing streak with a 4-0 shutout of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Tuesday night, but the win was not because Toronto played a more defensively responsible game, it was due to some opportunistic offense from James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri and the stellar goaltending of Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 43 shots for his 14th victory of the season.
Toronto scored just 55 seconds into the first period as Kadri converted a van Riemsdyk pass for his 10th goal of the season and lengthened their lead midway through the second as Kadri sprung van Riemsdyk on a breakaway for his 12th goal.
Tyler Bozak added a power play goal later in the middle frame and Mike Santorelli scored into an empty net to lock up the Leafs 20th win of the season, but Bernier was the difference throughout the game, making a number of great saves to keep Dallas from getting on the board and changing the momentum of the game.
“I thought that our team played a real solid road game and it started with (Bernier). He made some extremely timely saves, some acrobatic saves that will be on the highlight reel.” Team captain Dion Phaneuf said following the game. “He was a rock for us back there again but I thought that our whole team from start to finish played a real hard game.”
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle welcomed the end of the losing streak prior to the Christmas break, but has to be troubled by the loose defensive play that his club continues to display.
“With losing streaks, you don’t want them to linger and that one was lingering long enough for us.” Carlyle said. “I thought we played much better in Chicago than we did in the Carolina game and then the game against (Philadephia) at home. Hopefully we can use this as a little bit of a breather and enjoy the holidays. This is the best Christmas present we could have given ourselves.”
van Riemsdyk and Kadri – The line juggling by Carlyle paid off on Tuesday, as the new combo of JVR and Nazem Kadri combined for five points and the first two Leafs goals. Kadri successfully bounced back from one of his worst games of the season on Saturday, when he went -4 going head to head against Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux. If the Leafs can get van Riemsdyk to score consistently separate from the Bozak/Kessel combination, it would provide a two-line offensive threat that would pose match up problems for their opponents.
Bernier – 43 save shutout, calm and composed throughout. James Reimer is a good goaltender and has played well at times this season, but Tuesday night’s performance is why Bernier will get the majority of the starts down the stretch.
Phaneuf – One of his most complete performances as a Leaf, assisted on Bozak’s power play goal and provided some physicality to the game, laying out Jason Spezza with a solid body check and tussling with Antoine Roussel. Negative
Fourth Line – Probably due to the fact that the Leafs were not playing for four days, Carlyle gave his top players heavy ice time(JVR – 21:53, Bozak – 21:26) and limited the ice time of the fourth liners. Richard Panik only saw 4:01 and David Booth played less than eight minutes.
Most of the NHL will be off until Saturday for the holiday break, but the Leafs will get an extra day off before resuming their seven-game road swing in Florida on Sunday afternoon. *******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******
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