The Toronto Maple Leafs stumbled in their first game after the All-Star break, as the Dallas Stars scored five goals in the opening 20 minutes and coasted to a 6-3 victory at American Airlines Arena on Tuesday.
Goalie Frederik Andersen was chased after allowing three goals on eight shots in 11:18 and was pulled in favor of backup Curtis McElhinney. Dallas added a pair of goals before the end of the first after Tyler Bozak’s power play tally got Toronto on the board.
The Leafs outshot Dallas 29-8 in the remaining 40 minutes and narrowed the margin with goals from Nikita Soshnikov and Mitch Marner, but the final score was not indicative of the one-sided nature of the contest.
“We didn't play very well. (It was) very evident, we were down 3-0 11 minutes into the game last night.” Head coach Mike Babcock said on Wednesday. “We weren’t prepared, we didn’t work, we had no structure, you add those together you can do whatever you want the rest of the game, it’s a waste of time. Catch up hockey is losing hockey, you got to start on time, we did a poor job, we got our hat handed to us.”
Babcock shook up his line combinations at practice in St. Louis on Wednesday, shifting Nazem Kadri between James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner, Connor Brown and Tyler Bozak with Leo Komarov and William Nylander with Zach Hyman and Auston Matthews.
“I’ll figure (the line combinations) out by tomorrow morning,” the Leafs coach said. “No idea, (whether the changes will remain for Thursday’s game against the Blues) but I didn’t want to watch the same group that started the game start practice today.”
Defenseman Morgan Rielly participated in practice, skating on the fourth pairing with Frank Corrado, but his status for Thursday will depend on how his injury responds. The Leafs blueline was woeful on Tuesday, especially Jake Gardiner and Martin Marincin.
Gardiner could not corral Dallas rookie Devin Shore on the Stars opening goal and Marincin showed little resistance in front of the net on Radek Faksa’s first period marker.
Mitch Marner was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for January on Wednesday, led all rookies with 15 points(4 goals, 11 assists) in 13 games and eight power play points.
Three Leafs rookies (Marner, William Nylander and Auston Matthews) have been named Rookie of the Month this season. Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski won in November.