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Maple Leafs steal one against the Wild

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It wasn’t pretty, but it was two points

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Minnesota Wild David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

So, did anything exciting happen today? Not that I’m aware of. But we have a Leafs game to look forward to. Let’s get into it.

First Period

  • [18:58] The first strong chance goes to Minnesota, as Mikael Granlund finds Eric Staal in the high slot. His shot is adeptly directed away by Andersen.
  • [16:41] Early on, it’s easy to see why Minnesota is so good defensively. They’re animals in their own zone, and they protect the middle of the ice with their lives. Hallmarks of a Boudreau team.
  • [14:39] Matt Dumba takes penalty by hooking Marleau in order to prevent him reaching a rebound.
  • [13:54] This Leafs power play is automatic. Marner to Matthews. You’ve seen it before. 1-0 Leafs.
  • [12:28] The Wild come on strong after the goal, and generate a couple decent chances. Nothing crazy either way, however.
  • [10:15] Granlund has an amazing chance in front of the net, but Freddie gets in front of the shot. Big save to keep the Leafs up one
  • [7:41] The Leafs haven’t gotten much done at 5v5, but they catch a break to get the first 5v5 goal. Tyler Ennis tries to centre the puck, and it goes in off the leg of Nick Seeler. 2-0 Leafs.
  • [6:22] Another great chance for the Wild, as Charlie Coyle centres for Mikko Koivu in front. Andersen stones him. This game could easily be 2-0 the other way.
  • [6:22] Zaitsev takes a cross-checking penalty on the previous play, by the way.
  • [4:22] The Leafs kill off the power play without any real issues.
  • [3:37] After the PK, Kadri joins the Tavares/Marner line. They get some zone time, but no great shots.
  • [2:04] Dermott has a shift with Hainsey, but I’m not sure what caused it.
  • [0:30] Minnesota gets one back. Suter pinches in the offensive zone and finds Eric Staal in a soft spot, who rips one off the bar and in. 2-1 Leafs. Rielly was a little slow to get out to Staal there.
  • [0:00] End of the period. A pretty putrid period from a 5v5 perspective, but the Leafs have the lead thanks to some power play magic and a nice bounce.

Second Period

  • [19:48] Andersen gives the puck away in the slot, but Tavares comes to the rescue with a shot block.
  • [18:30] Sloppy start for the Leafs in this period. Leivo gives the puck away in his own zone, and surrenders a chance to Jordan Greenway as a result. He misses the net, and the Leafs get a let-off.
  • [15:52] Zucker nearly finds Staal at the back post for a tap-in after a rush set up by Jared Spurgeon. The pass was in Staal’s skates, which prevented him from tying the game up at 2.
  • [15:18] Off a dubious icing call, the Leafs get a chance to start the puck on the Wild zone. However, a clearing attempt past a pinching Rielly turns into a 2 on 1 for Zucker and Granlund. Granlund passes to Zucker, but he doesn’t handle it cleanly, resulting in another chance wasted for Minnesota. The Leafs are playing with fire here.
  • [14:43] And it burns them! Dermott fails to make a play on a bouncing puck in the neutral zone, and has his pocket picked by Joel Eriksson-Ek. The Swede creates a 2 on 1 as a result, and passes to Greenway, who makes no mistake. 2-2 tie.
  • [13:04] The Matthews line gets a decent shift away with some zone time, but in typical Minnesota fashion, the Wild allow nothing from in close or the middle of the ice. They’re a very frustrating team to play in that respect.
  • [8:49] Jason Zucker has been all around the ice today... he beats Ron Hainsey to the front of the net and nearly pokes home a pass off a rush. Great save by Andersen, who doubles up on the effort later in the shift by robbing Staal. Kadri gets a slot chance going the other way which Dubnyk handles.
  • [5:22] Leafs score, seemingly out of nowhere! After a tough shift, Rielly makes a brilliant pass to Marner who gains the zone and finds Gardiner for a point shot. The shot is saved, but Marner obtains the rebound and fires it on net from the point. Hyman tips it in from in front, and against the run of play, the Leafs take a 3-2 lead. Another primary assist for Marner, who continues his incandescent start to the season.
  • [4:30] The Leafs get another great chance as a stretch pass from Gardiner finds Kadri, who hits a streaking Tavares in the slot. His shot is stopped by Dubnyk to keep it a one goal game.
  • [3:19] Kapanen almost makes a brilliant play to set Matthews up with an open net after a finding a loose puck in the slot. It looked like a Wild player got a stick on Kapanen’s pass before Matthews could slot it home.
  • [2:14] They show a replay of the Matthews chance. Looks like he just didn’t expect the pass and couldn’t react in time. Really nice play from Kapanen though, who continues to impress.
  • [0:00] End of the second. The Wild are still playing better than the Leafs at 5v5, but some Marner Magic and Hyman’s hands have the Leafs with their noses in front again. Hopefully, they seal the deal.

Third Period

  • [19:28] Hyman takes a high sticking penalty on Jonas Brodin. Wild to the power play.
  • [17:50] Some nice passing by the Wild leads to Staal giving Zucker an empty net in the slot. Somehow, he misses, looking skyward in anguish afterwards. A big break for the Leafs.
  • [15:40] Another penalty to the Leafs. This time, Jake Gardiner is booked for tripping.
  • [13:40] Once again, the Leafs kill it off, largely thanks to Freddie.
  • [12:31] Not much to say right now. Freddie is the Leafs defense at this point.
  • [10:33] This is one way traffic. The Wild are getting a billion shots, most of them from decent locations too. Freddie is preserving this lead.
  • [10:22] Well, that one was coming, to be honest. Jason Zucker has been the best skater on the ice for most of this game, and he scores a beauty. Marner turns the puck over down low, and Zucker and Granlund play a quick (unintentional) give and go on the goal mouth, which ends with Zucker roofing it off the bar. Pretty goal, and deserved, if I’m honest. 3-3 game.
  • [7:02] The Leafs have looked good for the minute that they were on the power play, but the Wild have comprehensively outplayed them in the other 52 minutes of the game that have been played thus far.
  • [5:58] The Leafs look completely befuddled by the Wild forecheck, as they do with just about any aggressive forecheck denies them time in the defensive zone.
  • [4:39] The Leafs most likely path to winning this game involves the last five minutes being quiet as both teams settle for the guaranteed point, and then winning in 3-on-3, where they’re one of the more dangerous teams in the league.
  • [3:54] Rielly has a BRUTAL shift, weak in his own zone, compounded by a horrific giveaway in front of the net that Andersen makes up for.
  • [3:20] And going the other way, the Leafs get an incredibly fluky goal! Connor Brown gains the zone, moves behind the net, and passes to Kadri at the side of the net... he tries to centre and it goes in off Seeler again! Kadri gets off the schneid, and the Leafs lead 4-3. That was a really nice play by Brown, to make himself available for the puck, enter the zone, and make a power move to get behind the net.
  • [2:00] The Granlund-Staal-Zucker line has been absurdly dominant. They’ve tooled Tavares’ line and Gardiner/Zaitsev.
  • [1:16] The Wild have pulled the goalie and have some great chances with the 6 on 5.
  • [0:55] But they can’t stop Zach Hyman! He steals the puck off Suter at the point, wins a puck battle, and fires it into the empty net. That’s his 3rd or 4th empty net goal of the season, and that will just about do it.
  • [0:00] Ugly game... but it’s a win. And we take those.