Take out 11 minutes and 7 seconds of this game and the Wild might have had a chance. In fact, Devan Dubnyk would have had a shutout. When the Toronto Maple Leafs scored Tuesday night, it came in bunches and they kept the pressure coming, with chance after chance it seemed.
Playing their second game in as many days, the Minnesota Wild came out of the gate fast and ready to play. They limited the Maple Leafs’ chances in the first period down to three solid opportunities by William Nylander. The Leafs forward had a breakaway 30 seconds into the game following a Ryan Suter turnover. Minnesota netminder Devan Dubnyk stood his ground early and stopped the thwarting Nylander, although drawing a Suter slashing penalty in the process. Nylander failed to score on a semi breakaway and a late tip out front throughout the rest of the first period, leading to a goose egg on the scoreboard under “Maple Leafs” after the first period.
The Wild, on the other hand, found the back of the net during the first period when forward Luke Kunin got his second goal in three contests. Coming straight from the bench, Kunin received a pass in the soft spot of the Leafs’ defense and let go a wrister that found its way past Frederik Andersen as he was being screened by Joel Eriksson Ek.
It has become ever so obvious Kunin is finding his groove lately. He’s arguably been the Wild’s best forward over the past three games. If only he had some help from some other forwards on the team, we might be talking with more positivity and the Wild might have more than two points through six games.
The middle frame has not been kind to the Wild this season. Twelve of the 25 goals given up by the Wild through six games have come during the second period. That’s nearly half of their 4.16 goals against per game coming in the second period. All four goals the Wild allowed were in the middle frame and, to be more specific, all four came during a stretch of 11 minutes and 7 seconds.
The scoring started early with a rocket from the Leafs captain John Tavares. The Toronto native received a cycle pass along the boards, took a strip towards the net and ripped a snapshot from a sharp angle. Dubnyk was screened out front and was beat by a perfectly placed Tavares shot.
The game remained tied for a couple of minutes, then Jared Spurgeon tripped Tavares, resulting in a penalty. With the man advantage, the Leafs took their first lead of the game on a goal Dubnyk probably wishes he had back. This time it was Mitch Marner from an unfavorable angle sending a wimpy wrister on goal. It seemed as though it’d be a routine save for the Wild netminder, but the puck ended up sliding through Dubnyk’s five hole, giving Toronto a 2-1 edge on the scoreboard.
Quickly following the goal, a major play of the game occurred. In hindsight, this was the turning point in the game. Following a collision between Ryan Hartman and Ilya Mikheyev, Hartman got up and gave Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin a small hold, resulting in the veteran defenseman falling to the ice. What Hartman might not have known was that Wild forward Ryan Donato was all alone heading in towards Andersen on a breakaway looking to tie the game back up. Embellishment or not by Muzzin, it was an error in judgement on Hartman’s end.
On the ensuing power play, the Maple Leafs gave themselves a bit of insurance on a very fluky goal. Marner shot a wrister that traveled from the crossbar to the the glass behind Dubnyk, with the puck popping out to the slot where a hungry Andreas Johnsson batted it out of mid-air to put the Leafs up 3-1. A weird goal no doubt, but it seems good teams have the best puck luck.
The Wild had some chances in the third period, but Fredrik Andersen shut the door on any chance the Wild had to inch their way back into this hockey game. The Wild failed to get a good shot away on a three-on-one after Jason Zucker’s pass to Zach Parise was a little too far in front of him, resulting in Parise settling for a weak backhanded shot easily corralled by Andersen. The Leafs goaltender also flashed the leather on a booming slapshot from Donato. With no screen in front of Andersen, the hard shot from Donato was chalked up to just a shot on the scoresheet.
The Wild were not able to beat Andersen in the final frame until the game was all but over.
The one bright spot of this game for the Wild was that the freshly called up Gerald Mayhew was able to score his first NHL goal in his first-ever NHL game. He did so in front of a lot of friends and family, who made the four-hour drive from Michigan to Toronto. Late in the third period, Donato sent a wrister left of the net banking off the boards to Jordan Greenway. From there, Greenway tried to jam it past Andersen, resulting in a rebound for Mayhew to pick up and put in for the score. It stinks the goal did not matter more towards the outcome of the game, but it was still a special moment for the 27-year-old and one he’ll be telling his grandchildren one day.
Minnesota was unable to go into Toronto and contain their superstars. A horrid second period was the ultimate demise to what could have been a big win for the desperate Wild. In the end, the Maple Leafs were just too much for the Wild to handle; Toronto 4, Minnesota 2.
The Wild continue their Canadian road swing on Thursday in Quebec. The Wild have a date with the 2-2-2 Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre starting at 6:00 PM CT.