TORONTO (AP)—James Neal rewarded his friends and family that made the short trip to see his first NHL game in Toronto with a scoring spree.
Neal, a 21-year-old rookie from nearby Whitby, scored three goals for his first career hat trick and 15 Dallas Stars had at least one point in an 8-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.
“Just being able to step out onto the ice was something special, and things were going in for me,” he said. “Everything I shot found a way in.”
Steve Ott, Fabian Brunnstrom, Brad Richards, Krystofer Barch and Mike Ribeiro also scored for the Stars (14-14-5). Jere Lehtinen, Landon Wilson, Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas added two assists each. Goalie Marty Turco even had an assist to go with his 20 saves.
Coach Dave Tippett knew this was a game the Stars had to win because Toronto arrived home early Tuesday morning from Atlanta. Dallas, meanwhile, was in town for two days.
“They obviously were a team that traveled late last night,” Tippett said. “We wanted to go out and jump on them early, get a lead, and we were able to do that. It’s pretty hard to come back when you’re a tired team.”
The strategy worked. The Stars were up 3-0 before the Leafs had a shot on goal. Neal, Ott and Brunnstrom scored on Vesa Toskala in the first 10:45 of the game.
Playing for the fourth time in six nights, the Leafs looked sluggish in the defensive zone. Dallas was having its way, showing as much speed as any visiting team has all season and moving the puck with authority.
“We didn’t have our legs, we didn’t have our mind to be able to play a shutdown game,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. “Unfortunately, it got ugly.”
The sellout crowd of 19,269 started getting on Toskala after he allowed a power-play goal to Richards at 14:12 of the first period. Toronto’s starting goalie missed Monday’s win in Atlanta while receiving treatment for a groin injury.
“Vesa doesn’t deserve that,” defenseman Tomas Kaberle said.
Toronto repeatedly was burned for leaving Stars players uncovered in front of the net.
“He didn’t have a chance on any of those goals,” Wilson said. “I don’t think it was fair that the fans got on him, if that was their intention.”
Barch was left unchecked during a prolonged goal-mouth scramble, eventually scoring from his knees to make it 5-0 at 3:45 of the second period.
Then Ribeiro was barely touched at the edge of the crease as he calmly shoveled the puck into an open net at 10:15. And Neal’s second of the night came after another scramble at 11:35.
It was 7-0 by the time Wilson gave Toskala a break and sent Curtis Joseph in to replace him.
(It was) shot, rebound, shot, rebound and then somebody would put it in the empty net. We weren’t covering anybody,” Wilson said.
The Maple Leafs had won five of six coming in and hadn’t shown a propensity for embarrassing defeats as did the team of year ago, when Toronto lost five games on home ice by five or more goals.
Turco lost his shutout bid when Blake took a pass from behind the net and scored at 15:33 of the second period.
Grabovski added a goal at 9:20 of the third before Neal polished off a hat trick at 18:34 in a nearly empty building.
Those that stayed around booed the home team as the seconds ticked away. Toskala seemed understanding when asked how he felt about getting booed.
“Fans are paying good money to come watch us and we didn’t play very well,” he said.
Dallas played at Toronto for the first time since Dec. 10, 2005. … Turco has a record of 48-13-4 against Canadian teams since 2002-03 … The Stars and Leafs are both looking for their first short-handed goal this season … Andre Deveaux earned his first NHL point with an assist on Toronto’s second goal.