His goal with less than five minutes left stood up to give the last-place Carolina Hurricanes a 4-2 win over Toronto on Tuesday night, reminding the Leafs how far they've fallen this season.
"I don't have much to say," said Leafs forward Phil Kessel, stuck on just one goal in 13 games. "We're not playing good enough. It's a number of things. We've got to be better."
"You can't win many games with only one or two goals," Stempniak said.
The Maple Leafs created far more scoring chances than Carolina in the matchup of two of the NHL's worst teams. Toronto fired 15 shots at goalie Cam Ward in the third period, but Dwyer scored at 15:34 for Carolina shortly after Niklas Hagman's shot rang off the post.
Fittingly, the Leafs are 4-9-2 despite outshooting every opponent in their last 15 games.
"This game, an inch here and inch there, that's all it takes," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
The teams seem to be heading in opposite directions. Suddenly, the Hurricanes are starting to feel good about themselves after putting together their first three-game win streak of the season.
"It's just a matter of coming to the rink and competing," said Ward, who had 38 saves. "It's finally time that we found ways to win. Even though the game wasn't exactly the greatest game, we found ways to battle through it at key times in the game."
The Leafs, who sent a first-round draft pick to Boston in exchange for Kessel, are only four points ahead of the Hurricanes, who have two games in hand on Toronto.
The struggles are nothing new to a franchise that seems destined to miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year. Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice was behind the Toronto bench for two of those seasons and knows all about the pressure the team faces.
After watching his new squad beat the Leafs for the second time this season, he noted how much easier things were from the other side: "That was the most relaxed press conference I've had here," joked Maurice.
The Leafs scratched F Rickard Wallin for the 13th time ... Carolina is missing six regulars from its lineup due to injury: Tuomo Ruutu (upper body), Sergei Samsonov (upper body), Scott Walker (shoulder surgery), Chad LaRose (lower body), Erik Cole (upper body), Joe Corvo (leg) ... Leafs G Jonas Gustavsson started for the fifth time in six games ... Curtis Joseph was given a standing ovation on the day he announced his retirement ... Announced attendance was 19,120.