Jonathan Bernier gave Trevor Smith the chance to be a hero.
Bernier stopped 48 of 50 shots by the Dallas Stars before Smith scored with 41.4 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory against the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
Smith, called up from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League due to Maple Leafs injuries, was just outside the crease and deflected Jake Gardiner's shot past Kari Lehtonen for his fourth goal of the season, ending Toronto's five-game winless streak.
"My job is to go out there and give my team a chance to win," Bernier said. "I thought my last couple of games I wasn't very good. I needed to come here and play the way I can play and go shot-by-shot."
Nazem Kadri, returning after a one-game absence to attend his grandfather's funeral, scored both of Toronto's goals in regulation.
“It’s definitely something that he would have loved to see,” Kadri said of his grandfather, also named Nazem Kadri. “The last couple of years there hasn’t been a game that he’s missed. He’s going to be dearly missed by my family. There’s not much else to say.”
Coach Randy Carlyle was glad to see his young center rewarded.
“Nazzy’s had a tough couple of days,” he said. “Emotionally, I think he’s pretty drained. Hopefully, we can be some solace to him in his time of mourning. Usually, you go to work and get back into the swing of things in life, it helps you move on.”
Carlyle was relieved with the victory, which ended an 0-3-2 slide.
“By no means do we think we’re out of the woods, but it feels good to win a hockey game,” he said.
Toronto won despite being outshot 50-24, the 10th game in a row the opposition has had more shots.
“Hopefully, they feel good [in the dressing room]. There’s been a lot of things going on. It’s time for this group to take a deep breath. Let’s go to work tomorrow and get ourselves ready for Saturday. ... We’ll come to practice and hopefully we’ll feel better about ourselves."
The Maple Leafs visit the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.
"It wasn't our best game, but we're still finding ways to get points," Horcoff said.
Kadri put Toronto ahead 2-1 at 6:58 of the third period when he deflected Cody Franson's shot-pass from the top of the right circle over Lehtonen's pad for his ninth goal of the season.
Dallas appeared to have tied the game at 9:42, but Horcoff's goal was waved off immediately because it was deflected into the net with a high stick, a call that was upheld after a video review. Horcoff got one that counted with 2:46 left in regulation when he deflected Kevin Connauton's wrister from the top of the left circle past Bernier.
"I was hoping they'd count it, but I felt like it was a little bit high," Horcoff said. "I knew the next one was OK."
Dallas ended up splitting a two-game trip in which the losing team had 50 shots in each game. The Stars survived a 50-18 disparity in a 4-3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.
"I give their goalie a lot of credit. I give their team a lot of credit. They found a way to win," Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. “They pulled what we pulled in Chicago the other night. Kudos to them."
The Stars took the game's first five shots, though none seriously tested Bernier. Toronto didn't get its first shot on Lehtonen until 11:09, when Dion Phaneuf took a wrister from the high slot.
Toronto grabbed the lead 58 seconds into the second period on a play that cost the Stars defenseman Trevor Daley. Van Riemsdyk battled Daley as he carried the puck down the left side; Daley wound up falling to the ice and sliding into the corner and out of the play. Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel picked up the puck and got it to Kadri coming through the slot, and Kadri beat Lehtonen for his eighth of the season.
Daley was helped off with what the Stars called a lower-body injury. He did not return.
"The injury looks like it will be a little bit of time, nothing that will be short-term," Ruff said.
Dallas had its best chance to get even in the final minute of the period. Bernier stopped Alex Chiasson's blast from the right circle, but kicked the rebound right to Ray Whitney, who was racing in from the left side. Whitney half-flubbed his shot, and Bernier slid out to cover the rolling puck.
The Stars tied the game 1:52 into the third period on a nifty passing play. Rookie Valeri Nichushkin swept up a loose puck in center ice, carried over the blue line and slipped a drop pass to Horcoff. He found Cole cutting for the net and put a perfect pass on his stick for a deflection Bernier had no chance to stop.
Material from team media was used in this report