By HOWARD BERGER
DALLAS (Nov. 26) – Nice timing here for Joffrey Lupul. As the Leafs winger returns to Anaheim nine months after the Ducks were forced to part with him in a salary transaction, he scored the only goal of the shoot-out to give Toronto a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars on Friday night at the American Airlines Center.
The Leafs had to take Lupul’s $4.25-million salary-cap hit through the 2012-13 season when they dumped Francois Beauchemin’s $3.65-million ticket on Anaheim last February. The trade – most significantly – brought talented defenseman Jake Gardiner to the Leafs; the University of Wisconsin grad cracking the NHL line-up after an impressive training camp this fall.
Lupul was hoping to stick in southern California after being traded to Anaheim by Philadelphia in June 2009 as part of the deal that landed Chris Pronger with the Flyers. But, the Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta native missed 59 games of the 2009-10 season after surgery (Dec. 17, 2009) for a herniated disc in his back, and a difficult recovery beset with lengthy complications. He played in 26 games for Anaheim last year prior to the trade, and then registered 18 points in 28 games with the Leafs – all the while explaining to anyone that would listen how he would need the entire off-season to fully recover from his ordeal.
Call Lupul a man of his word.
Just past the quarter-mark of this season, Lupul stands third in NHL scoring with 27 points in 23 games, including 11 goals. He is two points behind Claude Giroux of Philadelphia and three in back of league-leader and line-mate Phil Kessel.
Now, he returns to face the Ducks at the Honda Center on Sunday, hoping to prove that GM Bob Murray erred in letting him go, but also looking forward to re-acquainting with many close friends in Orange County, Calif., where he lives in the off-season. “I have no hard feelings,” Lupul said.
My photo-review, now, of the Leafs victory here in Dallas:
FANS WALK INTO THE AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER FOR THE LEAFS LONE VISIT OF THE SEASON (ABOVE) AND STAND (BELOW) FOR THE SINGING OF O CANADA.
REFEREE DON VAN MASSENHOVEN (ABOVE) DROPS THE PUCK AT CENTER ICE BETWEEN TIM CONNOLLY OF THE LEAFS AND STEVE OTT OF THE STARS.
A BIRD’S-EYE VIEW FROM MY PERCH IN THE AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER PRESS BOX.
LEAFS GOALIE JONAS GUSTAVSSON (ABOVE) WON HIS THIRD GAME IN SEVEN NIGHTS, BUT OFTEN HAD TO PEEK AROUND OTT AND HIS 6-FOOT, 190-POUND FRAME.
AS PER USUAL, THE LEAFS HAD A DECENT AMOUNT OF FAN SUPPORT ON THE ROAD, INCLUDING SEVERAL IN THE “SUSHI” SEATS BEHIND THE VISITORS’ BENCH (ABOVE).
FANS CELEBRATE ALONGSIDE THE DALLAS PLAYERS (ABOVE) AFTER ERIC NYSTROM SCORED HIS FIRST OF TWO GOALS AT 4:03 OF THE OPENING PERIOD.
THE LEAFS FOUGHT BACK WITH GOALS 3:58 APART MIDWAY THROUGH THE PERIOD, INCLUDING THE GO-AHEAD MARKER BY DION PHANEUF (ABOVE): A ONE-TIME SLAPSHOT FROM THE RIGHT POINT THAT STARS GOALIE KARI LEHTONEN GOT A PIECE OF BEFORE WATCHING IT TRICKLE OVER THE LINE.
EVERY NOOK AND CRANNY OF THE AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER WAS OCCUPIED ON THIS NIGHT, AS THE STARS RECORDED THEIR FIRST SELL-OUT OF THE SEASON – A CROWD OF 18,532.
PHIL KESSEL AND JOFFREY LUPUL WERE FREQUENT VISITORS TO THE AREA AROUND THE OPPOSITION NET (ABOVE), AS THEY HAVE BEEN ALL SEASON.
A NUMBER OF BANNERS ARE ON DISPLAY ABOVE THE ICE IN THE AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER, INCLUDING ONE (ABOVE) THAT COMMEMORATES THE THREE RETIRED JERSEYS IN FRANCHISE HISTORY: BILL MASTERTON, WHO DIED AS THE RESULT OF A HEAD INJURY WITH THE MINNESOTA NORTH STARS IN JANUARY 1968; THE LATE BILL GOLDSWORTHY, MINNESOTA’S MOST PROLIFIC SCORER IN THE FRANCHISE EARLY YEARS, AND AMERICAN NEAL BROTEN, A MEMBER OF THE 1980 MIRACLE ON ICE TEAM THAT WON GOLD AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS IN LAKE PLACID, N.Y. AND A SUPERB PLAY-MAKER IN THE NHL. THE BANNER BELOW IS SELF-EXPLANATORY: THE STARS DEFEATING BUFFALO ON THE INFAMOUS BRETT HULL “TOE-IN-THE-CREASE” OVERTIME GOAL TO WIN THE 1999 NHL CHAMPIONSHIP.
DAVID STECKEL OF THE LEAFS CORRALS A LOOSE PUCK (ABOVE) IN THE SECOND PERIOD, MINUTES BEFORE SUFFERING AN INJURY TO HIS LEFT PINKIE-FINGER WHILE BLOCKING A SHOT. THE DIGIT WAS HEAVILY BANDAGED AFTER THE GAME.
VIEW FROM THE PRESS BOX (ABOVE) AS DALLAS PLAYERS RETURN TO THE ICE FOR THE THIRD PERIOD. STARS GM JOE NIEUWENDYK (BELOW) PAUSED TO SAY HI AFTER BEING INTERVIEWED IN THE SECOND INTERMISSION BY JIM RALPH ON LEAFS RADIO. THE EX-TORONTO WINGER WAS INDUCTED INTO THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME TWO WEEKS AGO.
DALLAS APPLIED OFFENSIVE PRESSURE THROUGH MUCH OF THE THIRD PERIOD (AS ABOVE), BUT GUSTAVSSON WAS MOSTLY EQUAL TO THE TASK.
KARI LEHTONEN FOUND HIMSELF IN AN AWKWARD POSITION (ABOVE) WITH NOT A TON OF HELP AROUND HIM. HE SURVIVED THE ESCAPADE.
TIM CONNOLLY WHEELS AWAY AT CENTER ICE IN THE THIRD PERIOD (ABOVE).
A GOAL BY CLARKE MacARTHUR AT 6:55 OF THE FINAL FRAME WENT TO VIDEO-REVIEW, BUT THE “WAR ROOM” IN TORONTO QUICKLY SANCTIONED THE TALLY, AS POINTED OUT (ABOVE) BY REFEREE KYLE REHMAN. IT GAVE THE LEAFS A 3-2 LEAD.
DALLAS, HOWEVER, WASN’T TO BE DENIED, AS STEVE OTT CELEBRATES THE TYING GOAL BY LINE-MATE RADEK DVORAK AT 12:47 OF THE THIRD PERIOD (ABOVE) AND THEN JOINS HIS TEAMMATES (BELOW) WHILE THE VISITORS REACT DESPONDENTLY.
THE STARS WERE PROVIDED A GLOWING OPPORTUNITY TO BREAK THE DEADLOCK WHEN ROOKIE MATT FRATTIN WAS SENT OFF FOR HOOKING AT 16:22 OF THE FINAL PERIOD (ABOVE). BUT, STEPHANE ROBIDAS OF DALLAS INCURRED A HOOKING PENALTY OF HIS OWN AT THE 17:59 MARK, CUTTING SHORT THE POWERPLAY.
LOUI ERIKSSON OF DALLAS HAD THE BEST CHANCE DURING THE FIVE-MINUTE OVERTIME (ABOVE) BUT HE FIRED THE PUCK INCHES WIDE OF THE NET.
IN THE SHOOTOUT, JAMIE BENN OF DALLAS CLEANLY BEAT GUSTAVSSON (ABOVE) ONLY TO HIT THE LEFT-GOALPOST. THE FINAL STARS SHOOTER, MIKE RIBEIRO, TRIED A FANCY SPIN MOVE (BELOW) BUT GUSTAVSSON STOOD HIS GROUND TO END THE GAME, AND TORONTO’S 4-3 TRIUMPH.
AS THE LEAFS WERE CELEBRATING (ABOVE), MANY OF THEM TURNED TO NOTICE THE DALLAS PLAYERS ARGUING WITH THE REFEREES THAT GUSTAVSSON HAD SLID INTO THE NET WITH RIBEIRO’S SHOT. THE CLAIM WAS QUICKLY DENIED.
DOWNTOWN DALLAS AT NIGHT (ABOVE), INCLUDING THE GLOWING BALL ATOP REUNION TOWER.