(SportsNetwork.com) - It didn't look that way at the start, but January has
been a pretty good month for the surging Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs look to stay hot on Thursday night by posting their longest winning
streak in over 10 years as they continue their road trip versus the Dallas
Toronto kicked off the new year with a shootout win over Detroit in the Winter
Classic, but then went on to lose four straight. That skid has become a memory
as the Maple Leafs have rebounded with six consecutive wins and are now tied
for third place in the Atlantic Division with 59 points, matching the rival
The line of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak has been at the
center of the surge, combining for 14 goals and 30 points over the last seven
Kessel has a goal in four straight while also posting six goals and eight
assists over a seven-game point streak. He scored twice in Tuesday's 5-2
victory over the Colorado Avalanche, giving him 26 tallies and 52 points on
"We're winning right, so that is the most important thing. Whatever I can do
to help the team win and just keep going," said Kessel. "I could have had a
bunch tonight. I missed some good chances, but like I said we got the win and
it's a big win for us."
Toronto also got a goal and an assist from van Riemsdyk, while Jay McClement
and Jake Gardiner added scores and James Reimer made 35 saves.
The Leafs have won six straight for the first time since Dec. 23-Jan. 2 during
the 2005-06 campaign. They haven't won seven in a row since an eight-game run
from Nov. 22-Dec. 6, 2003.
"It was a team effort tonight," said van Riemsdyk. "This could have been an
excuse game with the altitude and back-to-back games. We didn't let that
Toronto had opened a four-game swing with a victory in Phoenix the previous
night and will wrap the trek on Saturday in Winnipeg. The Leafs are now
10-10-4 on the road.
While the Maple Leafs are on an impressive winning streak, the Stars will
settle for winning back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 23-27.
They are just 2-8-1 in January but are coming off a 4-0 victory over the
Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves for his second shutout of the season and 24th of
his career, while Ray Whitney, Jordie Benn, Vernon Fiddler and Erik Cole all
The Stars outshot the Wild 12-3 in the first period and led 2-0 to eventually
capture the opener of a five-game homestand.
"It's been frustrating because we've had a lot of good opportunities inside a
game that haven't gone for us," said Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff. "We've
started some games really well and all of a sudden a goal can go in and it's a
little bit of a letdown. But you know we really gave a key effort and got the
saves when we needed them, and the power play was good and the killing was
Dallas scored twice on the power play and has lit the lamp on the man
advantage in five straight games. That is the longest such streak for the club
since doing so in seven straight from Dec. 11-23, 2010.
Benn, meanwhile, picked up his second goal of the season on a third-period
penalty shot. It was Dallas' seventh penalty shot of the season, a new club
record that also ties an NHL single-season mark, and Dallas has scored four
times on the seven tries.
The Stars are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games at home versus the Maple Leafs, but
have lost three straight in the series overall. That includes a 3-2 overtime
setback in Toronto on Dec. 5 despite a season-high 50 shots.
Lehtonen made 21 saves on 24 shots, giving up the winner with 42 seconds left
in overtime. He fell to 2-6-2 lifetime versus Toronto with a 2.95 goals
Kessel had two assists and Jonathan Bernier, who is likely to start tonight,
made 48 saves and moved to 3-2-1 lifetime versus the Stars with a 2.12 GAA.
The Sports Network