A trip home could help Neal earn even more praise from his coach.
The native of nearly Whitby, Ontario, plays at Air Canada Centre for the second time in his career as the Stars try to win their fifth straight against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.
After scoring once during a 10-game stretch from Oct. 23-Nov. 16, Neal has been at the center of Dallas’ last two comebacks. His second goal of the game helped the Stars (10-7-1) rally from two down in the final three minutes of regulation in a 5-4 overtime win over San Jose on Thursday. Neal added an assist in the contest.
Neal tied the game with 9:58 left in regulation against Colorado on Saturday as Dallas erased the Avalanche’s 3-0 second-period lead but fell 4-3 in a shootout. The third-year player has three goals and four assists during a four-game point streak.
“The one guy that really seemed to have legs and some jump was James Neal,” Crawford told the Stars’ official website. “… He was a dominant force tonight and that’s what we should expect from him - a guy that finishes checks, is in down deep, gets his shots away and really creates a lot of imposing traffic at the net.”
That’s exactly what Neal has done in two career games against the Maple Leafs.
In Dallas’ last visit to Toronto, Neal recorded his only hat trick in an 8-2 victory Dec. 23, 2008.
Last season, Neal recorded his only career overtime goal in a 4-3 home victory over the Leafs on Oct. 28. He knocked a rebound past Jonas Gustavsson(notes) for that score, and he’ll likely get another shot at the Toronto goaltender Monday.
Toronto was denied a third consecutive victory as it managed two goals or fewer for the fourth time in Gustavsson’s seven starts.
The Maple Leafs are among the NHL’s lowest-scoring teams with 2.3 goals per game.
“It’s a shame that we couldn’t get a couple of goals for him and give him a little bit more support, but Monster was tremendous tonight,” defenseman Mike Komisarek(notes) said after Toronto was shut out for the fourth time.
The Maple Leafs (7-9-3), looking for their season-high third straight home win, will face a Stars team that has been outscored 12-3 while losing three consecutive road games. Dallas travels to Ottawa following Monday’s contest.
“… you’re kind of going into a bee’s nest and our road performance hasn’t been so great lately,” the Stars’ Steve Ott(notes) told the club’s official website. “This could be good - we had a great homestand and if we can take that same kind of presence onto the road, hopefully, we can pull some big points out of there.”
This is the only meeting between these clubs in 2010-11.