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Recap: Leafs beat the Wild in a fast-paced afternoon game

The battle of the former Penguins goalies goes to Murray.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Minnesota Wild Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

So I turn on TSN.ca and they’re advertising USA vs England, not this hockey game. Even the people who paid to put it on the air aren’t interested in Friday afternoon hockey.

First Period

Lovely tribute to Börje Salming from the Wild rink announcer. Thank you, Minnesota.

The game starts with a lot of quick action, but not serious scoring chances. The pace is enough to inspire the fans to boo Mac Hollowell when he hangs out behind the net forever while the Leafs do the world’s slowest line change.

The Matthews line gets Marc-Andre Fleury to scramble a little. His pads should be illegal, however.

Mitch Marner is not afraid of that orange, though. He shoots it clean from the half boards, and it may have deflected. For now it’s Marner’s goal:

1-0 Leafs

(Sorry for the lack of Omar, blame the NHL)

Replay shows it going off of Matt Dumba’s leg.

I’m watching Justin Holl and Mac Hollowell defending against Kirill Kaprizov. Eventually, Mark Giordano gets out there, but, um, don’t do that, Leafs.

Jordan Greenway high sticks Rasmus Sandin and then gives him the freebie shove to the ice that you’re allowed to do because the arm’s already up. Greenway sits, Sandin goes out with PP1.

The Wild PK is okay, the Leafs get a few good looks though.

Toronto instantly takes a penalty as Holl smacks Kaprizov in the face with his stick and gets in a freebie trip. Which turns out not to have been a good idea. Holl sits, and Kaprizov immediately goes out and does this on the power play:

Tie Game

Mike Johnson makes a point about Marner’s aggressiveness on this PK, and I think it’s both a valid criticism, but not a thing Marner is often guilty of. He knows how to time the aggression better than that.

Zach Aston-Reese is playing tough on the boards when Kaprizov just hands him the puck back, and Fleury is just not on the ball here.

Terrible angle on that one, this is actualy better:

2-1 Leafs

The Leafs are just walking in and shooting here. This is not the Wild defending I was expecting.

Kaprizov — okay I get it now sounds like he’s the only guy on the Wild, but he kinda is — he is allowed to bang away right from the doorstep, but Matt Murray keeps the door firmly shut.

Thoughts

That all felt very Leafs-heavy to watch, let’s see what the number say:

Definitely yes on the Leafs being able to walk in and shoot, but the Wild had a significant shotshare advantage at 21 - 13 or 62%. Their xG% was only 56%, however; a continuing problem for them this season.

Those shots by the Wild coming from the corner — looking for someone in the slot — are really interesting, and the Leafs should try to intercept that for breakaways. Not that they cheat high with right wings or anything, but maybe Nylander might want to cheat a little less high.

I looked on Moneypuck.com to see who that was: Erickson Ek, Petan and Shaw. There one shot from the other side, same area, from Gaudreau. While I was there, I looked at the shots in tight to the net, Minnesota’s four good chances. Two were Kaprizov, one Zuccarello, and one Steel. That line is all they have.

Not my favourite reporter, (massive, massive understatement), but guess if he noticed the exact same thing happen on the Wild penalty?

Second Period

So, about those plays that start up in the corner. The pass that makes this goal easy for Matt Boldy isn’t as deep as those shots were, but it’s nearly there.

Tie Game

Boldy is in his second NHL season, and is pushing to be the second-best forward on the Wild.

Murray kicks the net off with almost no pressure. That’s a faulty install. In other news, I’ve had more than enough Mac Hollowell, the weak link in the rush that saw Murray sprawled out and swimming for it.

The Leafs get a flurry of offence during a change in shift that is — to be honest — pretty damn inept. There have been times where the defenders are making the forwards look confused.

Sandin has hurt himself in some way, stepping on a stick. He had to do the splits, and has taken some time on the bench to stop looking like he should go down the hall.

Sandin is out on his next shift, so fingers crossed.

Yeah. That’s the stuff. The play starts way back before what you’ll see below, but it was an entire series of sharp, accurate passes, and smart plays. Was the rebound out to Calle Järnkrok a nice break? Sure, but you have to be there to take advantage.

3-2 Leafs

Timothy Liljegren knocks Ryan Reaves off the puck, and pays the price. The price is a power play to the Leafs when Reaves trips him.

Oh, this is just bad, though. The Leafs spend close to a minute gaining the zone and never get a shot. PP2 is a little better. Will this end that weird thing where everyone wants Morgan Rielly replaced? Nope. It should, but nope.

Back at five-on-five, the Leafs gain the zone, and pass it low to high, and I had this moment of total relief that it was Holl over there not Hollowell.

Mete and Hollowell do a very good job of cycling with the Holmberg line against the Wild depth.

Fleury whacks at the Leafs, loses his goal stick, and meanwhile Merrill takes a tripping call. Leafs power play gets another look. Much better this time, with Marner and Matthews doing the entry.

Kerfoot misses the puck, and the Wild get a shorty break. Murray has this one cold. Not a great power play, but the period ends with the score tilted the right way.

Thoughts

That period really was dominated by the Leafs with 67% Corsi and 75% xG.

I think one of the reason’s that’s true is that the Kämpf line is doing decently well at holding off the Steel line (Kaprizov is on the wing on that one). Matthews is seeing that line a lot too, and doing less well.

Matthews real problem, though is that Jared Spurgeon and Jake Middleton own him out there. If he and Nylander seem a little invisible, that’s why.

Tavares, meantime, is rolling along facing Freddie Gaudreau, Jordan Greenway and Matt Boldy, and everything is coming up goals for his line.

Meanwhile, those deep corner shot-passes? The Wild never did one all period. They don’t need to, the Leafs defence is allowing them to walk in and shoot even more than the Leafs are enjoying.

Third Period

Somehow Sandin has lost his stick. For real, it’s gone, through the camera hole. The photographer looks like Nylander’s stunt double too.

Murray knocks the net off for the third time. This one with an elbow, and it looks on purpose, but the nets are also just loose here. The crowd is irate! Minnesota irate, not New Jersey irate. This fellow wants to speak to someone’s manager though:

Kerfoot snaps Nic Petan’s stick and goes to sit and think about why he’d take a penalty against Petan.

We start with a Kaprizov chance right off the face off. Aston-Reese clips him with the stick and gets away with it.

This is a terrible PK so far. Some dummie in the preview said this might be a special teams battle, and the Leafs are terrible at both kinds and winning, so that person should shut up now.

Aston-Reese goes on a sweet shorty break, and he is sort of brought down by Marcus Foligno, sort of by how he’s skating, and he crashes Fleury. Aston-Reese hits the post hard.

Because I called the PK terrible, it morphed into a shooting competition by the Leafs. So maybe that preview person wasn’t totally wrong.

Twelve minutes left in this period, and some sustained puck control by the Leafs would be awesome now. The Tavares line comes out and obliges me.

Oh beautiful. Now, I’ll preface this by saying that the Matthews line has been very visible this period. Nylander comes in off the bench, and easily gets it past Fleury.

4-2 Leafs

The whistle goes because the net is off behind Fleury. That would be the one that popped off when Murray bumped it with his pads.

Murray knocks the net off again with a normal goalie movement where they push off the post. It’s the net, not the goalie. The net is supposed to be up to that level of pressure.

We go live to Michael Russo, though:

After a very long overdue repair to the net, we get to finish this game.

The Wild pull the goalie, and use the extra man well. This is a really good passing play, and Kaprizov and Zuccarello are too good for the Leafs.

4-3 Leafs

The Wild keep Fleury out, and the Leafs have to hold on for two minutes. Murray with one big save, and he’s the first, second and third star for me.

And that’s the ballgame, let the carrying on over nets commence all over the place.

Thoughts

I can’t believe this defence corps is functioning, but it is.