The Wild went into Toronto losing 11 of the last 15 games and only scoring a total of ten goals in the past seven games. A new calendar year mean a new Minnesota Wild team, right? Scoring on odd man rushes has been a continuing trend for the Wild, but splitting chances back and forth between a star-studded Maple Leafs team was not something the Wild wanted to do coming into today’s matinee game.
The Thursday matinee game started at 1:00 PM CST because it was deemed as Toronto’s Next Generation Game. A game dedicated to the future of the game as the many young Maple Leafs fans were at the game as the greater area of Toronto did not have school today.
The Wild had a little different look to the defensive core as Ryan Murphy got his first game up in a Minnesota Wild sweater this season after playing 21 games last season for the club. He registered two goals, three assists and was a plus eight last season playing in Minnesota.
Hockey Wilderness contributor Darren Brown alluded to the Wild’s first and final minutes being at upmost importance, but apparently the team didn’t get the memo. The Maple Leafs scored seven seconds into today’s matinee. SEVEN SECONDS. Mitch Marner fired a nifty backhanded shot on net, beating Devan Dubnyk whom was playing very conservatively in his net. Coming into today’s game, the Maple Leafs have won 90% of games when scoring first.
After Nino Niederreiter and Zach Parise each missed quality chances on the first Minnesota Wild power-play, Mitch Marner lit the lamp yet again early in the first period. The Maple Leafs made the Wild look like they were a bunch of high school players as John Tavares fed a pass through three Wild defenders for an easy tap in for the Leafs’ leading point getter. A tick-tack-toe goal as Marner fed it to Tavares, then he shipped it right back to Marner for an easy goal.
Scary start. Two goals allowed in the first six minutes.
Halfway through the first period it seemed that today was going to be the same tale. The Wild get chances, but fail to capitalize on them. Then, Charlie Coyle scored on the rebound to cut the lead in half. Finally, a goal when the Wild desperately needed one and a gritty one at that. Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon threw the puck on net from a bad angle with Luke Kunin battling in front and drawing Leafs’ defenders towards him while Coyle swooped through the slot pulling the puck to his backhand and shooting it past Leafs’ net minder Michael Hutchinson. Coyle’s goal was a big spark for this team going forward, giving the Wild a little more pep in their
step stride after a horrendous first ten minutes on the road.
The first period wound down after both teams had chances to put a couple goals past each net minder, but neither succeeded. Zach Parise had the best chance after blocking a shot in the defensive zone, leading to a breakaway. Unfortunately, the puck went off his shin pad too hard and went far down the ice, leaving Parise at a bad angle to score from. The Maple Leafs nearly made it 3-1 with under a minute to go when Mitch Marner was fed a one-timer in the slot, but Devan Dubnyk made a huge save, maybe even a game changing save. A goal late in the third would have been very detrimental for the Wild going forward.
The Wild led shots 19-10 after the first period.
It was important to start well in the second period. Minnesota started the second period much better than the first. Captain Mikko Koivu scored early into the middle frame, shortly after killing off an Eric Staal hooking penalty. Jared Spurgeon threw it on net from a poor angle and again the Wild scored off a rebound. Zach Parise was net front and helped Koivu add another gritty goal for the Minnesota Wild to tie it up at two.
It didn’t take long for the Maple Leafs to regain the lead, as William Nylander scored his first goal of the season on a wrap around of sorts. Nylander went around the net and roofed it short side. Devan Dubnyk would surely like to have this one back. Of course, Nylander would score his first of the year against the Wild. A new year, a new Nylander I guess.
Again, the Wild came back to tie it up. This time Jared Spurgeon added his name to the goal column and continued to add to his already great game. The Wild defenseman showed great patience after picking the puck up near the point and after waiting for the right time to shoot, fired it five hole. This was simply a beautiful and smart play by Spurgeon, who now added a goal to his two assists so far, putting on a show for Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas. Trade bait? No, no, I’m just kidding. Hehe
Both teams traded chances for much of the middle frame. The best opportunity for the Wild came on the penalty kill breakaway for Eric Fehr, in which he fired the puck off the crossbar. A game of millimeters. If his shot Would have been a millimeter or two lower it would have went past Hutchinson, but again the Wild fell short of scoring on an odd man rush.
At the end of two periods the Wild and Maple Leafs were tied at three goals a piece with the Wild outshooting the Maple Leafs 31-21.
It was another good start to a period for the Wild in the third and after four minutes of pressure, Minnesota forced a bad outlet pass by Auston Matthews to lead to the first Wild lead. Charlie Coyle picked off the pass and dished the puck over to a streaking Zach Parise that caught and released the puck quickly, finding it’s way past a diving Michael Hutchinson.
Another odd man rush chance for the Wild came quickly after the Coyle goal, as Granlund and Staal went in on a two on one but the Leafs’ net minder denied Granlund on a great opportunity for a two goal lead.
Devan Dubnyk sure made up for the Nylander goal, as the Maple Leafs put a lot of rubber his way in the final frame. Dubnyk made a handful of big stops to keep the one goal lead. The two biggest on both Marner and Matthews, as Dubnyk stopped all nineteen shots he faced in the third period.
The real story of the night was the Wild’s penalty kill. The Wild went a perfect four for four, including two penalties by Jordan Greenway and Jonas Brodin in the third period. After today’s game, the Wild’s penalty-kill ranks second in the league.
Player of the game without a doubt was Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. After being a minus two 5:38 into the game, he finished plus one with one goal, two assists, five attempted shots, five blocked shots, and one takeaway. A pretty good day at the office for number 46.
Bruce Boudreau’s 85-year-old mom was very happy to see a 4-3 Minnesota win, as it being the first game she’s seen live, in person with her son coaching the Minnesota Wild.