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Neal leads charge as Stars topple Maple Leafs

TORONTO (Ticker) -- The Dallas Stars are finally living up to

expectations.

James Neal recorded a hat trick, while rookie Fabian Brunnstrom

and Steve Ott each registered a goal and an assist as the Stars

rolled past the Toronto Maple Leafs, 8-2, on Tuesday.

Mike Ribeiro also scored and had an assist, Brad Richards netted

a power-play goal and Krys Barch tallied for the Stars, who have

earned points in eight of their last 11 games, going 7-3-1 over

that span.

"It was a fine performance for some of our young guys," Dallas

coach Dave Tippett said. "It was a thrill for some of our guys

from this area to come back and play.

"It's pretty obvious they were a team that traveled late last

night. We wanted to jump on top of them and put them away early

- it's pretty hard to come back when you're a tired team."

Jere Lehtinen, Landon Wilson and defensemen Trevor Daley and

Stephane Robidas all notched two assists in support of Marty

Turco, who turned aside 20 shots.

"A quick start would be ideal," Turco said. "Good first and

second shifts. I can't remember too many bad shifts tonight.

Incredible sign for our team, with guys blocking shots in the

second, taking hits in the third and playing a full 60 minutes

despite being up so big."

Jason Blake ended a seven-goal run by Dallas with 4 1/2 minutes

left in the second period and Mikhail Grabovski added his 12th

goal of the season in the final session, but Toronto failed to

earn its sixth win in seven tries.

"They were a fresh team and if they had played last night, it

might have been a little more fair for us," said Toronto coach

Ron Wilson, whose team was coming off a three-game road trip and

playing for the fourth time in five days.

"It was fatigue tonight because we couldn't even generate a shot

tonight, something we usually dominate."

The Stars, who were bounced by the Detroit Red Wings in six

games in the Western Conference finals last season, began this

campaign rather sluggish.

They finished October with a pedestrian 4-5-2 record and their

struggles continued into November as captain Brenden Morrow was

lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in

his right knee.

Entering December with an 8-11-4 mark and having yet to post

back-to-back victories, Dallas has now seemingly put an end to

its dormant slumber.

The team was able to string together consecutive wins this past

week, but failed to notch its first three-game run of the season

on Saturday in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators.

"We had a tough overtime loss against Ottawa, so it's really

great to get these points," Neal said. "We really needed them.

Coming home and doing it is only a bonus."

Neal made sure the Stars did not fall back into their losing

ways when he opened the scoring 3:23 into the first with a wrist

shot in front of the net.

"Everything was clicking and the points were big tonight," Neal

said. "It helps when you're playing with guys like (Lehtinen)

and (Mike) Modano - it makes scoring easy. I was just going to

the net and taking any shots I could get."

Ott converted a tip-in on the doorstep 8:55 into the first and

Brunnstrom added to Dallas' lead just 1:50 later.

Richards then ballooned the advantage to 4-0 with a slap shot

from the left faceoff circle with 5:48 left in the session while

on the power play.

"We had trouble putting the puck deep," Toronto defenseman Tomas

Kaberle said. "We only had a couple shots after 10 minutes.

They did exactly what we wanted to do - put a couple shots in

early and shut us down. Our guys kept going though and gave it

their all the last 20 minutes."

Barch converted passes from Wilson and Daley 3:45 into the

second, and Ribeiro and Neal tallied 80 seconds apart, giving

Dallas a commanding 7-0 bulge.

"We knew what was at stake tonight," Daley said. "We needed

wins whenever we can and going into the Christmas break, this is

a high note."

Blake and Grabovski cut Toronto's deficit to five with

consecutive tallies, but Neal secured his first career hat trick

on the power play with 86 seconds left in the game.

"A real special day coming home, playing the Toronto Maple

Leafs," said Neal, who is a Whitby, Ontario native. "I've been

watching them my whole life and it's great coming home being a

Leafs fan."

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