Nazem Kadri scored two goals in the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 overtime win
over the Dallas Stars and afterwards said the game was dedicated to his
grandfather, also named Nazem, who passed away at age 77 this week.
Kadri missed Tuesday's home game against San Jose to be with his family, but stepped up to the plate while centering the first line with wingers James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel.
"I know he was watching me tonight," Kadri said. "I wanted to have a big game for him."
Kadri said he spoke with his father, Sam, before the game and his dad is still having a tough time dealing with the loss of his parent. But he took the time to give his son some sage advice.
"He told me to stay strong and try not to think about it too much," Kadri said. "He knew I wanted to come out and have a big game for him, but he said to not push it and just go out and play my game. That's exactly what I did. It's going to be a great memory. I was something [my grandfather] would have loved to have seen."
The Maple Leafs were out-shot 50-24 -- which is hardly unusual this season -- but once again Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier was spectacular.
"I'm pretty tired right now, but it feels amazing," Bernier said. "My job is to go out there and give my team a chance to win. I thought the past couple of games I wasn't very good and I needed to come here and play the way I can play and go shot by shot."
Bernier's best save came in the final minute of the second period when he dove across the net to block a shot at the open cage by Ray Whitney of the Stars. Ray Whitney of old probably would have scored on that play, but an old Ray Whitney wasn't up to the task. The 41-year-old entered the contest with just one goal in 21 games.
Bernier also made a dazzling glove save on Tyler Seguin of the Stars at 11:11 of the third
Smitty steps up
Trevor Smith, taking advantage of his opportunity to play in the NHL with so many Maple Leafs regulars injured, scored the overtime winner when he tipped home a shot by defenceman Jake Gardiner.
Smith now has four goals and eight points in 16 games.
"Overtime ... that's a lot of fun; real exciting," Smith said. "I'm just playing hockey, man. That's what I do. I'm just trying to have some fun and do what I can to chip in."
Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said he hopes the victory will take some pressure off his players who felt the heat during the five-game losing streak.
"I'm happy we won because there seems to be a lot of pressure on our group and hopefully this helps flush some of the things that are going on out there," Carlyle said. "Maybe we can feel a little bit of room to breathe. By no means do we feel like we are out of the woods, but it feels good to win a hockey game."
The victory for Toronto snapped a five-game losing streak during which time the team allowed eight power play goals on 30 chances for the opposition. Against the Stars they were four seconds away from going a perfect four-for-four while shorthanded, but Shawn Horcoff scored with Jay McClement off for tripping.
Carlyle was pleased to have killed off the first three penalties, but not so happy when Dallas scored with the extra man.
"We were four seconds away, but we still had two opportunities to clear the puck and the penalty would have been over," Carlyle said. "Again, that little bit of adversity hurt us for a period of time."
The Maple Leafs got a bit of a scare when the Stars appeared to have tied the game 2-2 at 9:42 of the third after veteran Shawn Horcoff tipped a Vernon Fiddler shot past Bernier. The goal was waved off because it was scored with a high stick and after a review of the play, the call on the ice stood. Horcoff's luck wasn't all bad though. A little bit later he scored again and once again the goal was reviewed, but this time it stood to tie the game 2-2.
On a night when teammate Nazem Kadri stole the scoring spotlight, the Maple Leafs leading scorer Phil Kessel actually had a very solid game. Kessel was very solid controlling the puck along the boards in the offensive zone, chipped in with two assists and even dished out a big hit in the second period.
Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf and Dallas captain Jamie Benn dropped their gloves to fight at 11:11 of the first period, but the linesmen jumped in to keep them apart much to the chagrin of the audience. The two captains were at each other all game.
Marlies pitch in
With centre Tyler Bozak put on IR with an oblique strain Thursday and right-winger Colton Orr missing with an elbow injury, the Maple Leafs summoned left-winger Jerry D'Amigo up from the AHL Marlies. D'Amigo, 22, was drafted in the sixth round (158th overall) in 2009 and has five goals and eight points in 19 games with the Marlies this season.
D'Amigo played eight shifts with 4:02 ice time and had one shot on goal.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.