Auston Matthews Puts the Maple Leafs on his Back in a 3-1 Win Over Minnesota

(TORONTO, ON) Scotiabank Arena played host to two of the top teams in the NHL when the Minnesota Wild visited the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Coming into the game the Wild (31-15-3, 65 points) had one win in their previous four games, beating the Oilers 7-3 on Sunday and were looking to pick up their second win on a four game road trip across Canada.

Both of these teams last met in the beginning of December when the Wild came out with a 4-3 shootout win on home ice.

Toronto was riding a season high three game losing streak after losses against St. Louis, Montreal, and Columbus. After this rough stretch Sheldon Keefe said his team needed a “wake-up call” and against the Wild it was.

The Leafs 5 on 5 save percentage has been woeful since December first with neither of Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek posting a save percentage above .900, but in that time however the Leafs are 16-7-3.

Petr Mrazek was given the nod to start the game, hoping for a better performance than on Monday’s 5-2 loss over the last place Habs, and he impressed.

In a tightly contested first period their were only 11 shots combined by both teams, reminiscent of the NHL style of play from the late 90’s- early 2000’s.

Scoring picked up in the second period when Kevin Fiala found rookie Matthew Boldy behind the Leafs net where he fed a puck out front to an uncovered Frederick Gaudreau for his sixth goal on the season, with Boldy who has been impressing so far this year picking up his 17th point in his 18th game with the Wild.

Auston Matthews perhaps lost sight of his coverage on Gaudreau leaving him open for the score, so just 27 seconds later Matthews received a pass in the Leafs neutral zone from Timothy Liljegren, which saw him streak into the Wild zone and wire one of his signature laser beams past the glove of the young Wild backup Kaapo Kahkonen, for #34’s 35th goal of the year.

Tweet Credit: @MapleLeafs

The Leafs had some penalty troubles all game as after the Wild defenceman Kulikov took a high sticking call midway through the first the Leafs gave up four of the next five calls in the game. Toronto’s fifth ranked PK was put to the test all game and stone walled all four chances against them, however in their first ranking power play was unable to generate much offence on their two attempts.

Heading into the third period the game remained tied, when midway through the frame Matthews stole the puck from Brandon Duhaime in the neutral zone off a slick stick lift before holding the puck, to ensure that Michael Bunting could get back onside before a give-and-go pass with Mitch Marner, letting Matthews score on a cross crease goal for his 36th goal of the season.

Tweet Credit: @TicTacTOmar

Both Auston Matthews and Chris Kreider were coming into the game just one goal behind Leon Draisaitl for the league lead in goals and while Kreider scored during the Ranger’s 4-1 win over the Capitals, Matthews two goals on the night puts him in sole position for first in the league in goals.

Leafs captain John Tavares came into the game riding a 10 game goals drought, which ticked to 11 by the time the game was over, but a silver lining was that he picked up a point on Alexander Kerfoot’s empty netter late in the third period.

Tavares has picked up eight assists during his goalless drought.

Petr Mrazek had a much improved performance, posting 29 saves in the win, picking up his seventh win of the season.

Minnesota looks to finish up their four game Canadian road trip on Saturday when they take on the red-hot Calgary Flames. Toronto looks to build on this win when they head to Detroit to take on the Red Wings on Hockey Night in Canada.


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