DALLAS – Toronto’s Jake Gardiner capitalized on his chances. The Dallas Stars squandered theirs.
Gardner’s tiebreaking goal late in the third period completed the Maple Leafs’ rally for an improbable 3-2 win over Dallas on Tuesday night.
Toronto (3-8-4) entered the game tied with Columbus with a league-low 8 points, but beat the Central Division-leading Stars (12-4-0) for the second time in nine days.
“We knew they were going to push,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “We’d beat them and they could say OK, they weren’t prepared for us (Nov. 2 at Toronto). It’s a good feeling for our guys.”
Stars coach Lindy Ruff had said beforehand that it could be a “trap” game.
“They got a couple bounces, all our good chances didn’t go in. That was the game,” Ruff said afterward.
Gardiner’s slap shot from the right point went off the stick of Dallas’ Colton Sceviour and past goalie Antti Niemi at 16:32.
“We’re not a team that scores a lot of goals, so we got to play good defensively,” Gardiner said. “When we get those chances, we got to capitalize.”
Toronto goalie James Reimer made 36 saves, giving him 79 on 82 shots in the season-series sweep of Dallas.
“They’re a great team and they create a lot of chances,” Reimer said. “Tonight was just a night where I was just lucky enough to get in the way, and when I couldn’t be there, my teammates were there for me.”
Gardiner also had an assist on Peter Holland’s tip-in goal late in the first period.
Dallas took a 2-1 lead on Patrick Sharp’s goal in the final minuteof the second period and Vernon Fiddler’s shot from a severe angle out of the right corner at 5:39 of the third. Jason Demers assisted on both goals.
The Leafs’ P.A. Parenteau tied it with just under 7 1/2 minutes left in the third, wristing defenceman Morgan Rielly’s pass from behind the goal into the net. The puck struck Stars defenceman Jordie Benn’s skate and slid across the goal line.
“I have a rule that when the D’s below the goal line, they’re not allowed to pass it out front,” Babcock said. “So it’s a good thing that it went in.”
The Maple Leafs scored on the game’s first power play. Dallas’ Johnny Oduya was off for holding. With his stick, Holland directed the puck downward off Niemi’s left pad and between his legs.
Reimer’s toughest saves came early in the period, when he stopped Antoine Roussel and Mattias Janmark. Ales Hemsky shot high on another chance from in front of the net.
Dallas tied the game with 34 seconds left in the second period. Sharp hustled to beat the Leafs’ Matt Hunwick in a race for the puck. It went to Demers behind the net and the Stars’ defenceman passed to Sharp at the left goalpost, and he wristed the puck into the net.
NOTES: The Maple Leafs have won four in a row against Dallas, by a combined margin of 16-6. … Sharp’s goal was his seventh, all in the last eight games. He did not score in his first eight games. … LW Antoine Roussel returned to Dallas’ lineup after missing two games because of an upper-body injury. … Toronto’s No. 1 goalie, Jonathan Bernier (lower body), made the trip to Dallas and Nashville. He hasn’t played since being injured Oct. 31, but could be close to a return.