Stars down Maple Leafs as Anton Khudobin makes 31 saves

Anton Khudobin was heroic against the Maple Leafs in the third period to maintain the Stars’ 2-1 lead for the final.

TORONTO — A better effort ended with the same frustrating result for the Maple Leafs.

Dallas backup goalie Anton Khudobin made 31 saves — including a tremendous late stop on Mitch Marner — as the Stars heaped more home misery on Toronto with a 2-1 victory Thursday.

The Leafs (8-5-0) had decidedly more jump than in Monday’s listless 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Arena, but it wasn’t enough as the club fell to a surprising 3-5-0 in Toronto this season.

"Our team was engaged, I thought we worked hard, I thought we started good," Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said. "In the end, you’ve got to score."

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Despite a high-powered attack that put up 33 goals in seven games to open the schedule, Toronto has now failed to find the back of the opposition net in the first two periods of five consecutive home dates.

"A little adversity for our group," said Babcock, whose team visits the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. "Dig in. That’s it."

Jamie Benn and Devin Shore scored for the Stars (7-5-0), who picked up their second straight road win after losing three straight to begin 2018-19. Tyler Seguin added two assists.

Patrick Marleau had the goal for Toronto and Frederik Andersen made 17 saves as the Leafs lost for the fourth time in six outings.

"We played much better than Monday, which was our focus," said Toronto defenceman Ron Hainsey, who suited up for the 1,000th game of his NHL career. "The result was not what we wanted, but a step in the right direction."

Fresh off their first road triumph of the season with Tuesday’s 4-1 decision over the Montreal Canadiens, the Stars snapped a scoreless tie at 11:55 of second period just as a Leafs penalty expired.

Seguin fired a shot from the top of the left face-off circle that Benn tipped past Andersen for his fifth goal of the campaign and first in eight games.

Toronto had the best chance on another Dallas power play later in the period when Khudobin gave the puck away to Marner, but the Stars goalie recovered to make an awkward stop.

The visitors came close to taking the lead earlier in the second on a 2-on-1 rush, but Andersen was there to stop Jason Dickinson’s effort off a pass from Brett Ritchie.

Marner and Tavares were then stopped at the other end by Khudobin, who made his third start as Stars No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop got the night off.

"He’s such a great teammate," Dallas head coach Jim Montgomery said of Khudobin. "He brings energy everyday. He puts a smile on everyone’s face. With (Bishop) playing so well it’s been hard to get him in as many games as we’d like.

"But it’s great for his confidence, great for the team morale how good he played."

The Leafs came close on a power play with the score still 1-0 early in the third, but the Stars doubled their lead at 4:43 when Shore buried a nice feed from Mattias Janmark for his third of the campaign and second in as many games following a three-point night in Montreal.

Marner flubbed a chance on another Toronto power play before Khudobin was there to stop a Nazem Kadri redirection.

The Leafs continued to push, but Tavares lost the puck on a 2-on-1 break before Marner fanned on the follow up for a sequence that summed up Toronto’s evening.

"We definitely had plenty of looks," said Tavares, who also hit the crossbar on a first-period power play. "Their goaltender played well. Just some tough bounces here and there. We had some opportunities in all three periods.

"We just didn’t cash in."

Marleau then hit the post on a shot that went across the face of Khudobin’s goal, bounced back through the crease, struck the netminder’s leg and dribbled wide.

The Leafs finally got within one on the power play at 16:51 with Andersen on the bench for a 6-on-4 advantage when Marleau scored his second from the side of the net.

Tavares had the puck roll off his stick on another great chance with just over a minute to play before Marner was stoned by Khudobin in the final seconds of a period where Toronto outshot Dallas 16-4 and directed 31 attempts towards goal compared to the Stars’ eight.

"We haven’t been happy with the last couple games at home," said Marner. "We came with the energy we wanted and the pace we wanted.

"We didn’t get the result we wanted to, but stuff happens."

Notes: Roman Polak and Connor Carrick — a pair of former Toronto defencemen now with the Stars — were honoured with a video tribute during the first TV timeout. Carrick, however, missed his second straight game with a foot injury. … Dallas continues its six-game road trip Saturday against the Washington Capitals.

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