The Toronto Maple Leafs battled to a 5-4 win over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday Night. What were the good, bad, and ugly aspects of that game?

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The Good

I will go directly to 52 seconds of the third period for the best of the good. After Evgeni Dadonov scored on a penalty shot at 11:05 to tie the game at three, Mitch Marner scored just 32 seconds later. That restored the Maple Leafs a 4-3 lead. Just twenty seconds later, William Nylander would score what would prove to be the eventual game-winning goal. 

Specialty Teams

Toronto was perfect on the power play in the game going three for three. In addition, the penalty kill provided three big kills after giving up a goal on the Stars’ first power play. 

One penalty kill in particular, five minutes into the second period, seemed to give the Maple Leafs a lot of momentum. Toronto took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty when Bobby McMann jumped onto the ice and played the puck while Noah Gregor was slow at getting off the ice. On the ensuing Dallas power play, first Auston Matthews sent Marner in alone on a shorthanded breakaway. Then Marner returned the favor sending Matthews on alone. On the same penalty kill, Nylander came a stride away from having a breakaway of his own. However, he lost control of the puck in front of the Stars’ goal. While they didn’t score on those chances, that penalty kill seemed to give the Maple Leafs a spark that carried them throughout the rest of the game. 

Tavares Is Back

After going pointless for nine consecutive games, John Tavares has come to life. He has three goals and six points in his last three games including a goal and two assists in this game. Tavares three points in the game move him into a tie for 24th place with Phil Kessel in All-Time Maple Leafs scoring. Tavares has scored 394 points since joining the Maple Leafs in 2018. He also moved past Pat Lafontaine into 94th place in All-Time NHL scoring with 1,015 points. 

Nylander Scoring In Bunches

Nylander was Mr. Consistent for most of the season. He failed to score in just four of his first 37 games this season. However, after signing his multi-million, multi-year extension with the Maple Leafs, Nylander has failed to score in seven of his twelve games since. But, he also has four multi-point games in that span. His two goals and an assist in this game give him eleven points in the twelve games he has played since signing the deal. 

Matthews’ Goal Watch

Matthews scored his 41st goal of the season on the power play when his attempted pass to Nylander in tight on Dallas goalie Scott Wedgewood deflected off of Stars’ defenseman Esa Lindell’s skate past Wedgewood into the Dallas net. After being held off the scoresheet against the Islanders the previous game, Matthews is now on pace to score 69 goals this season.  

Matthews became the second Toronto player to reach the 60-point plateau this season. Nylander was the first. Matthews has scored at least 60 points in his eight seasons in the league putting him in third place for the most 60-point seasons in Maple Leafs franchise history. He’s behind Darryl Sittler (9) and Mats Sundin (12).

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The Bad

After winning a closely fought 2-1 game in Buffalo the night before, the Stars came out flying in this game and completely dominated the Maple Leafs in the first period. The Shot Attempts were 30-11, and the Scoring Chances were 17-3 for the Stars. According to, the Maple Leafs had just 15.4% of the Expected Goals in the period. Although Toronto gave up two goals in the period, the score could have easily been a lot worse than the 2-1 it was at the end of the first. 

The Ugly

Jake McCabe’s face looked pretty ugly after he was nailed by Mason Marchment late in the second period. McCabe’s face was covered in blood following the hit and he was not happy about it. Neither was Head Coach Sheldon Keefe. Both of them gave it to the referees and Mccabe was out for blood the rest of the game.

I could see that call (or non-call) going either way. Five years ago there would have been no doubt whether it was a good hit or not. That would have been considered a perfectly legal hit back then. But, with the NHL wanting to crack down on head hits of late, I could see that also being called at least a minor infraction. 

For the hit to be a penalty the rule states the head has to be the “main point of contact.” Watching this play over again, while Marchment makes contact with McCabe’s head it is questionable whether or not the head was the main point of contact. I think if the hit had gone the other way, McCabe on Marchment, and a penalty had been called I probably would not have been happy about it. 

What I would like to know is how we make McCabe this angry while he is playing all the time. He was a beast for the rest of the game.  

What’s Next?

The Maple Leafs take the short hop to Ottawa on Saturday to renew the so-called battle of Ontario. While the Senators are tied for last place in the East Conference with the Columbus Blue Jackets, they have just one regulation loss in their last eight games and have posted a 5-1-2 record in that span. Ottawa has also won two of the three previous meetings between the two teams this season. Interestingly enough, both the Senators’ wins came in Toronto while the Maple Leafs’ win was in Ottawa. Any way you slice it this probably won’t be an easy game. 

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