TORONTO -- It may not have been Dallas, but the Stars took advantage of some home cooking in Ontario.
Waiting patiently in Toronto while the host Maple Leafs were playing in Atlanta on Monday, the well-rested and focused Stars cruised to an easy 8-2 rout at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night thanks in large part to a four-goal first-period blitz that put this one away early.
It was also quite a homecoming for local boys James Neal, Trevor Daley, and Krys Barch, as all three had a big hand in the scoring.
Neal, from nearby Whitby, recorded his first career hat trick, Daley (Toronto) had a pair of assists, and Barch, from nearby Hamilton, had a goal as well as a couple of spirited fights with Toronto tough-guy Andre Deveaux.
"It's a special day, coming home and playing the Toronto Maple Leafs," Neal said. "It's a dream come true playing here because of watched them my whole life as a Leaf fan. I had a lot of family and friends here, so it's something special that I'll never forget."
Steve Ott, rookie Fabian Brunnstrom, and Mike Ribeiro had a goal and assist each, and Brad Richards also scored for the Stars, who won their third game in the last four, but were denied the opportunity to leap over Los Angeles and out of last place in the Pacific Division. The Kings blanked the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0 on Tuesday night.
"Points are so big right now, we're just trying to do everything we can to keep going here," Neal said. "It was a tough loss in Ottawa the other night because you don't want to have points slip away from you. So we have to keep going, and it showed that we were ready tonight."
Marty Turco stayed sharp despite a lack of action in his zone, stopping 20 shots in his fourth consecutive start. He also added an assist on Neal's third goal.
"I can't remember too many bad shifts in front of me tonight," said Turco, who was rarely tested with any kind of sustained Toronto pressure. "We're more conscious of what we're doing, and everyone's now on the same page. It's a good sign because that's one of the things that will propel us into playoff position."
It was a huge win for a Stars team that will now enjoy a few more days off during the league's Christmas shutdown, and the largest margin of victory since a 9-1 romp over Chicago in Nov. 2005.
"That team is fighting to get into the playoffs, too, so they had a lot at stake tonight," Daley said. "It was two teams that needed points tonight, and I felt we played a lot better."
Neal capped his big night with a power-play goal with 1:26 left in the game, letting a wrist shot goal from the left circle that beat goalie Curtis Joseph.
"The guys were good enough to put me out there," Neal said. "They knew I had two goals."
"I'm sure it's a big thrill for the guys that are from this area and come back and play here," coach Dave Tippett said.
The Maple Leafs had no answer for the Stars' onslaught, as Dallas pummeled Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala early and often, netting the four first-period goals in the game's first 14 minutes to start the rout. Toskala allowed seven goals on 27 shots in 32 minutes before mercifully being pulled by Toronto coach Ron Wilson.
Joseph came in for Toskala, and finished with nine saves
Jason Blake and Mikhail Grabovski scored for Toronto, which came in having won five of six while scoring 26 times during that stretch.
"We played so well in games before this, and tonight we played our worst," Joseph said. "I don't know how that happens."
The Stars made it happen because of a game plan that stressed the importance of a quick start against a weary team.
"We wanted to go out and jump on them early and get a lead," Tippett said. "We were able to do that. I thought we did a great job of not letting our foot off the gas until it was out of hand a little bit."
It didn't take long for the Stars to get on the board as locals Neal and Daley helped give Dallas an early 1-0 lead just three minutes in. Daley let a slap shot rip from the top of the left circle that Toskala kicked out right to Neal, who rammed home the rebound for his ninth of the season.
Ott upped the lead to 2-0 with just over 11 minutes left in the first. Standing to the right of Toskala, he easily tapped-in Ribeiro's pass from the lower portion of the right circle for his third of the season.
Brunnstrom gave the Stars a 3-0 lead nearly two minutes later with his 10th. Skating along the right boards, Brunnstrom breezed past Toronto defenseman Jeff Finger on his way to the net from the bottom edge of the right circle. Brunnstrom then neatly slipped the puck past a sprawled Toskala.
Richards stretched the big lead to 4-0 with his ninth on the power play at 14:12. Accepting a pass from Robidas at the right circle, Richards' drive a couple of inches off the ice eluded a beleaguered Toskala on the glove side.
Barch got Dallas revved up early in the second period, scoring his third of the year just 3:45 into the middle frame. While lying on his stomach in front of the net, Barch took a couple of whacks at a loose puck before putting it past Toskala for a 5-0 Stars advantage.
Ribeiro made it 6-0 under seven minutes later with his fifth, shoveling home a rebound after Wilson's shot was stopped by Toskala.
Neal then chased Toskala after scoring his second of the game, chipping in a loose puck in the crease with 8:25 left in the second.
Blake spoiled Turco's shutout bid with 4:27 left in the second period, wristing a shot from the slot to make it 7-1.
Grabovski made it 7-2 midway through the third after banging a rebound past Turco.
"We were great tonight, and it's something to build on," Daley said. "It show that we can do it. We looked good out there."
The Stars will take the next three days off before resuming on Saturday when they host the Anaheim Ducks at 7 (FSN). The game marks the opening of a three-game homestand in which all three games will be played in a five-day span.
--Forward Brian Sutherby made his Stars debut, replacing veteran Mark Parrish in the lineup. Sutherby was acquired from Anaheim in a trade earlier this month.
--Forward Joel Lundqvist is back to being day-to-day because of his nagging shoulder injury.
--It was the first meeting in Toronto between the two teams since Dec. 2005.
--Turco has won four of his last five starts against the Maple Leafs.
--The Stars have collected at least a point in nine of their last 13 games (8-4-1).
--Dallas is 16-6-2 in its last 24 games against Toronto.
--Ribeiro's goal was his 100th of his NHL career.
--The Stars improved to 7-9-2 on the road.
--Dallas wasn't whistled for any minor penalties through two periods, and had two for the game.
--The Stars went 2-for-3 on the power play.
1 - 0 DAL
2 - 0 DAL