By Stephen Hunt, The Sports Xchange
DALLAS — For much of this season, the Dallas Stars have looked like anything but the offensive juggernaut they were last season when they led the NHL with 267 goals.
But Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at American Airlines Center, the Stars got a goal and an assist each from Brett Ritchie and Devin Shore plus 40 saves from Kari Lehtonen, including 14 stops in the third period, and looked like the 2015-16 version in a 6-3 victory.
The Stars led 5-1 after one period and 6-3 after two.
“I thought we came out with a lot of energy, skated well,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We got a good effort right off the bat from every line. We played probably our best first period all year.”
Dallas (21-20-10) also got goals from Radek Faksa, Lauri Korpikoski, Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza. Dan Hamhuis and Tyler Seguin each had two assists.
Mitchell Marnier had a goal and assist for Toronto (23-16-9), who also got goals from Nikita Soshnikov and Tyler Bozak.
“Coach, players, goalies, everybody, we were bad, so let’s get on the flight and let’s get regrouped,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “That right there will have to be a humbling experience for the group.”
Toronto goaltender Curtis McElhinney stopped nine of 12 shots in relief of starter Frederik Andersen, who was pulled in the first period.
Shore gave Dallas an early lead with his eighth goal of the season 2:53 into the game. Shore received a pass just beyond the Toronto blue line, rushed up the right side and skated through the Maple Leafs crease before slipping the puck inside the left post for his first goal in 10 games.
“It felt really good (to score against the Leafs). It was exciting,” Shore said. “I grew up watching them. I was definitely excited for this game. I tried to approach it like any other game. It was an important one, but it was a really cool thing.”
Faksa then scored off a rebound 1:44 later to give Dallas a 2-0 edge. Andersen denied Shore’s wrist shot from the left circle with a pad save, but the carom fell to Faksa and he scored his seventh goal of the season.
Korpikoski gave Dallas a 3-0 advantage when he scored off a backhand with 8:42 remaining in the first period. Korpikoski received a pass from Ritchie inside the left circle and beat Andersen for his seventh goal of the season. It was Korpikoski’s 200th career point.
That goal ended the night for Andersen, who was replaced by McElhinney after stopping five of eight shots.
Toronto answered with 6:10 remaining before the first intermission when Bozak scored a power-play goal. Bozak delivered his 13th goal of the season after pinpoint passing from Marner and James van Riemsdyk.
Bozak’s power-play goal was the 45th allowed by Dallas this season, eclipsing the Stars’ total from last season.
“I think we turned the puck over too much, gave them breakaways, two-on-ones and kind of left our goalies out to dry there,” Bozak said.
Dallas regained its three-goal lead with 3:56 remaining in the first period when Ritchie scored on a tap-in from the crease. Julius Honka fed Ritchie with a pass from behind the Toronto goal.
Benn made it 5-1 with a power-play goal 1:38 before the first intermission. Benn beat McElhinney short side with a well-placed wrist shot from the right circle for his 14th goal of the season.
Toronto made it 5-2 when Soshnikov scored his third goal of the season from the slot 4:19 into the second. Matt Martin intercepted a wayward clearance from Honka in the left circle and quickly fed Soshnikov.
Spezza added his eighth goal of the season 7:49 into the second period to put Dallas up 6-2. Seguin skated around the back of the Toronto goal and left the puck in front. Spezza tapped the puck in after it first deflected off both skates.
Marner made it 6-3 with his 12th goal of the season on a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Lehtonen far post with 9:35 remaining in the second period.
Toronto outshot Dallas 14-1 in the third period, but Lehtonen stood tall.
“It’s just tough to play in that situation, but as a goalie it’s (all about) going one shift at a time and trying to win that shift,” Lehtonen said.