A tip of the cap to Maple Leafs net minder Frederik Andersen.
The Wild outshot the Leafs 41 to 23 yet fell on the scoreboard 5-3 and a lot of that due to Andersen. Chances would come for the Wild to score and their opportunities were shut down by the Leafs goaltender.
Coming into the game the Wild had won 8 of the last 9 games against the Maple Leafs but with the addition of John Tavares this past offseason and another year of experience for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner this Maple Leafs team is a whole new beast for the Wild.
The Wild played a very good game and might one might argue they deserved the win. Sometimes this happens during an 82 game season and there is nothing you can do about it. A team outplays their opponent and they lose. I would bet to believe the Wild would have preferred one of these types of games to not happen right now. After horrid losses to Arizona and Columbus, a statement win against one of the best teams in the league would have been just what the doctor ordered for the currently struggling Minnesota Wild.
The Wild had a good start to the game, they matched the energy of the young Maple Leafs, were playing fast, and Devan Dubnyk was looking great in net.
Then, a questionable hooking penalty on Matt Dumba was called.
The league’s 5th best power-play made no mistake and made the Wild pay for the early penalty by Dumba. Auston Matthews scored 6 minutes into the period on the power play. Matthews was fed a cross-ice pass from Mitch Marner that Matthews had to knock out of mid-air to coral the puck before quickly firing it past a diving Devan Dubnyk. Matthews 13th goal in 13 games was a beauty and by all means gave Dubnyk no chance of saving.
Auston Matthews knocks the puck down out of the air and snipes pic.twitter.com/oWumSicipG— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 2, 2018
After Frederick Andersen robbed Mikael Granlund, Tyler Ennis got his revenge in his first game back against the team that bought him out this past summer. Tyler Ennis scored in the most Tyler Ennis way possible. He tried to pass to line mate Josh Leivo out front but wound up bouncing the puck off Nick Seeler’s skate redirecting past Devan Dubnyk. Again, nothing Dubnyk could do.
The Wild’s chances continued to pour on and Frederick Andersen continued to stop everything but as time wound down in the first frame the Wild found the scoresheet. A great step from the blue line by Ryan Suter led to a one timed goal for Eric Staal short side to beat the hot Andersen for his 10th of the year. A big goal with 30 seconds remaining in the first period, cutt the lead back down to one goal. Staal found the quiet area on the ice as he does so well and made no mistake in picking his spot.
Good ol' Canadian boy Eric Staal with the goal on Hockey Night in Canada. #TORvsMIN pic.twitter.com/HxTBY1Wtei— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) December 2, 2018
The second period was more of the same for the Wild. They drove play and the speed of the Wild forwards made it very difficult on the Leafs defenseman. Andersen continued to make stops but the Wild were able to get another by him.
Jordan Greenway converted on a 2 on 1 with a quick one-timer off a saucer pass from Joel Erikkson Ek to score his 4th goal this season. Since his quick stint in Iowa, Greenway has 8 points in 16 games and his .50 points per game is tied for 8th by rookie players during that stretch. The third line of Greenway, Erikkson Ek, and Nino Niederreiter had a fantastic night, controlling play and creating chances the majority of the time they were on the ice together.
The tie did not last long as the Leafs Mitch Marner continued his great night by simply putting the puck on net. Marner shot from almost as far away as you can inside the offensive zone and Zach Hyman deflected it past Dubnyk. The goal created a quick sense of controversy as the goal was deflected in off Hyman’s glove, but it was eventually determined to be a good goal as it was unintentionally deflected in off of Hyman’s glove.
After two period the Wild lead in shots (23-15) but ultimately were down in what really counts, the scoreboard.
The same story continued in the 3rd period.
The Wild had lots of chances and continued to control play. In the third period especially, the Leafs defense was flat out bad. Take Leafs defenseman Morgan Reilly out of the equation and the Leafs would have been in deep trouble. Jason Zucker and Zach Parise in particular for the Wild were getting a parade of chances each by simply beating the Leafs defenseman with their speed.
Jason Zucker was very close to tying early in the third, but made up for it minutes later by picking up a loose puck at the side of the net and squeaking it underneath the arm of Frederik Andersen to tie the game. His 8th of the year and 2nd in 3 games gives the Wild some hope that a goal scoring streak is on the near horizon after earlier this season having only 2 goals during a 15 game stretch.
Jason Zucker cleans up this whiff by Granlund to tie the game. #mnwild pic.twitter.com/VMYplqhZry— Giles Ferrell (@gilesferrell) December 2, 2018
A tie game in the 3rd period on home ice against a top 5 team in the NHL while also having all the momentum. Sounds like a perfect scenario for a team such as the Wild to overcome their recent 3rd period collapses, right?
In a very Wild fashion, they gave up a goal with 3:20 left in the 3rd period. For the second time of the night the puck went off Nick Seeler and past Devan Dubnyk. Nazem Kadri scored his 8th of the season from a sharp angle that went in directly off Seeler’s chest.
The Maple Leafs added an empty net goal after Zach Hyman outmuscled Ryan Suter to get a breakaway with Dubnyk on the bench and effortlessly slid the puck home to secure a 5-3 win for the Leafs.
Tonight, was a heartbreaker for the Wild. They did everything they needed to besides score more goals than the Maple Leafs. They outplayed the Leafs, outshot the Leafs and nearly doubled the Leafs scoring chances. Devan Dubnyk even had a solid night and cannot be blamed for any of the 4 goals scored on him. The first goal by Matthews he had no chance, one goal was deflected, and the other two goals were off defenseman Nick Seeler. The late goal by Kadri is absolutely crushing and it will be interesting to see how the Wild come out in their next game.
The Minnesota Wild’s next game is in Vancouver as they start a 3 game Canadian road trip playing in Calgary and Edmonton as well. The Canucks have only won 2 out of their past 11 games, so this is a perfect opportunity for the Wild to get back into the win column Tuesday night.