Photo credit:© Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
Three-point effort from Rielly and Nylander’s overtime winner propels Maple Leafs to a 4-3 win over Wild
By Joseph Zita3 months ago
After crawling back to defeat the Detroit Red Wings with three consecutive goals in the third period to begin their 2023 Global Series, the Toronto Maple Leafs continued their trip in Sweden with a meeting against the Minnesota Wild, who were entering the second half of a back-to-back after playing the day prior against the Ottawa Senators.
Toronto came into this game on a three-game winning streak and winning four of their last five games, so they needed to continue this hot stretch after such a mediocre start to the year. Well, it didn’t start how they would have liked. Jon Merrill opened the scoring just 2:37 into the game with a shot from high in the zone to give the Wild an early 1-0.
Similar to their last game, Toronto was playing from behind, but that didn’t seem to worry them. They were handed a power play midway through the first period as Jared Spurgeon was whistled for tripping, and Toronto’s power play went to work trying to find the game-tying goal.
Well, they found it, and it came off the stick of the best goal-scorer in the league, as he potted home his 14th of the season off a rebound from a Nylander shot, and that assist extended Nylander’s point streak to an outstanding 17 games.
That goal from Matthews might’ve gone straight to their feet because Matthew Knies decided to get in on the action and score his fifth of the season to give the Maple Leafs the 2-1 lead late in the first period.
Both teams would trade chances in a high-shot first period (14-11 for Toronto), but Toronto headed into the first intermission up 2-1 after falling behind early in the game.
With Matthew Knies scoring late in the first period to give his team the one-goal lead heading into the first intermission, Toronto needed to continue to build their lead. Minnesota is a desperate team looking for wins, so they couldn’t sit back and allow the Wild to take over the game or let them hang around in a close game.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t build on their lead, managing just five shots on goal, as the Wild dominated Toronto that period. They outshot them 11-5, which included three power plays for them this period, but Toronto’s penalty kill stepped up huge and had another solid game, going three for three to improve the penalty kill after a rough start to the season in that department.
Outside of Toronto’s limited chances and the Wild getting three power plays, the second period didn’t bring much excitement at all. Toronto headed into the second intermission up 2-1.
It wasn’t a pretty second period by Toronto by any means, but they were lucky enough to enter the third period still up one goal despite getting outshot 11-5 by the Wild. Luckily, Toronto opened the third period by extending their lead to two goals, as Morgan Rielly shot one from high in the zone for his third of the season just 4:22 into the period.
Unfortunately, that Rielly goal to give Toronto a two-goal lead early in the third didn’t give them as much momentum as they’d probably liked. Jake Middleton fired a shot from the point, and as four players were surrounding the net, I don’t know if Joseph Woll even saw the puck the entire way. Middleton beat Woll for his third of the season to cut the deficit to one goal.
Minnesota didn’t stop there. Just like their second period, they were pouring the shots on Joseph Woll and got rewarded for them this time. After Middleton cut the deficit in half, Mats Zuccarello redirected a pass home and just like that, Toronto’s two-goal lead was gone within a two-and-a-half-minute stretch.
Toronto didn’t necessarily have a strong pushback after the Wild tied it. They went 10 minutes without recording a shot in the third period but did a good enough job to send this game to overtime, where they were looking to secure the extra point.
The game headed to overtime, and if you’re Toronto, you might feel lucky enough to get at least one point, given how poor their second and third periods were in this game. However, once 3-on-3 overtime begins, anything can happen. It’s a brand new hockey game, and Toronto proved that.
Thankfully, the game didn’t drag into the shootout, and there was an overtime winner. Both teams had a scoring chance to start the overtime frame, but when Marcus Johansson got his shot blocked by Morgan Rielly, he fired a pass to Nylander. Once Nylander collected that pass in open ice, you had a feeling something silly was about to happen, right? Well, if you guessed yes, you’re right.
He attacked the offensive blue line with speed, and once he saw the only play in his way to the net was a forward, he took advantage of it. He pulled off the same move he did against this very Wild team twice already in overtime, and he did it again as he scored the game-winning goal to give Toronto the 4-3 win and leave Sweden with four points in two games.
Who stood out:
For the pregame article for this game, I wrote that the Maple Leafs’ top line of Knies, Matthews and Marner was a line to pay attention to because they haven’t been playing as dominant as we’d like them to be. They only had two points combined between the three of them over the past four games, and today, well, that changed. The line combined for five points (Matthews’ goal came on the power play), and they had a much better effort in this one compared to the Red Wings game.
Another player who played outstanding was Morgan Rielly. He led the way with a three-point night, which included the overtime game-winning assist and his block to set up that Nylander goal. Rielly has improved his point totals to 15 points in 17 games and has continued his excellent start to the 2023-24 season.
What else is there to say about William Nylander? Seriously. I feel like a broken record whenever I talk about this man, but he deserves all the credit for how elite he has been to start the season. A 17-game point streak is crazy, but to have that to open the season and come flying out of the gates is crazy. He added another goal and assist to his season totals and now has 12 goals, 15 assists, and 27 points, which puts him tied for fourth in league scoring with David Pastrnak and Nikita Kucherov.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Friday on TSN4 against the Chicago Blackhawks. Puck drop is scheduled for 2:00 pm ET/11:00 am PT.
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