It's lights out for Leafs in OT

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

DALLAS -- So much for Monster Magic.

In a season in which almost everything has gone wrong for the Maple Leafs, even the brief Cinderella ride enjoyed by rookie goalie Jonas Gustavsson didn't last nearly long enough for the Maple Leafs.

With less than three minutes remaining in the third period last night, the storyline seemed set.

The Leafs up 3-2. A second consecutive victory so deliciously close. And Gustavsson, the young Swede who had spurned the efforts of Dallas to sign him in the offseason in favour of Toronto, on the verge of beating the Stars.

It seemed to good to be true.

It was.

First came a nifty Mike Ribeiro deflection from the high slot with just 2:45 remaining in regulation, tying the game at 3-3.

Then, in overtime, the final dagger was struck by James Neal, who potted a juicy rebound with 2:03 left to give the host Stars a 4-3 victory, dropping the Leafs record to 1-7-2.

Three road games, in Vancouver, Anaheim and Dallas. Three outings in which the Leafs outplayed the opposition. And only three points to show for it.

"It was tough," said Gustavsson, who could not be blamed for the loss.

"We're just not getting the bounces right now.

"The (Ribeiro) goal, I don't know how he deflected it. It happened so fast. And the last one, it changed direction and I could not control the rebound."

With each outing, the Monster is learning more and more.

Last night's lesson: Don't touch the puck in the trapezoid, which is what he did in the first period, earning a delay-of-game penalty.

"We don't have that in Sweden but I do know the rule," Gustavsson said. "I thought it was outside but I guess it wasn't."

Gustavsson admitted he and his defencemen still need to work on chemistry when it comes to when and where the young goaltender will handle the puck.

The loss spoiled outstanding games by Leafs forwards Nikolai Kulemin and Jason Blake.

PROMOTION

Having been practically invisible all season, Kulemin was bumped up from the fourth to second line during the Leafs 6-3 win in Anaheim Monday, the Leafs first victory of the season.

"You could call it a promotion, I guess," coach Ron Wilson said.

"He deserved it."

Shrewd move.

Showing that his coach's hunch paid off, Kulemin scored his first two goals of the season last night, while Blake chipped in with three assists. Lee Stempniak, with his second goal in two games, had the other Leafs goal.

Brad Richards scored twice for the Stars.

Looking for their second win in a row, the Leafs easily played their best defensive period of the young season in the opening 20 minutes.

By the time the horn sounded on the scoreless first period, the Leafs had limited the Stars to just two shots while firing 10 at Dallas goalie Marty Turco.

In fact, when Gustavsson stopped Richards at the 5:08 mark of the second period, it marked the first Stars shot in a span of 19 minutes, 16 seconds.

"We played well enough to win that game," Wilson said.

He's right.

But they didn't.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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