After displaying a beat down on the scoreboard against the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs were back on the road to begin a mini road trip in Minnesota to take on the Wild and finish it off tomorrow night in Winnipeg to play the Jets. Before puck drop, news dropped that Morgan Rielly and Ondrej Kase, who were both game-time decisions, were out for warmups and will indeed play against Minnesota. However, Mitch Marner, who was also a game-time decision, was not out for warmups and he did not end up playing in tonight’s game. Joey Anderson slotted into the lineup for Marner and played on the fourth line, while Wayne Simmonds got promoted to the first line.
The first period started pretty slow for the Maple Leafs with the Wild generating the majority of the scoring chances through the first 10 minutes of play. They didn’t end up getting their first shot on goal until almost halfway through the period with a sharp-angle shot from Pierre Engvall. As the period went on the pace started to pick up a bit as both teams exchanged chances and then Simmonds and Foligno dropped the gloves right in front of the Wild bench with about two minutes to go. With just seconds left, Greenway pots home a goal that initially rang off the post from a Dumba shot and gave the Wild a 1-0 lead.
The second period started with a Wild power-play which was held without a single shot after a Morgan Rielly penalty. Minnesota then took a penalty of their own and gave Toronto their second power-play of the night, but not until Kase took a penalty with seconds remaining on the man advantage which ultimately made it a four on four for about five seconds and then a Wild power-play which they ended up scoring on. The Wild then ended up scoring another goal which made it 3-0 off another lucky bounce. However, Jason Spezza then said hold my beer as he scored two goals of his own along with a Matthews goal to tie the game at three heading into the third period.
The third and final period started with some pressure from the Wild which had the Maple Leafs on their heels for a bit and that eventually led the Maple Leafs to take two penalties and have to kill off a 5 on 3 for 1:48. Well, they did kill off both penalties, but it was in stressful fashion, of course. This game was tied 3-3 at the end of regulation and nothing was solved in overtime so we had to go to the shootout to find a winner. Well, Minnesota ended up winning which snapped the Maple Leafs’ five-game winning streak but at least they still picked up a point on the road.
Before we get into tonight’s three stars of the game, during the second intermission tonight, Elliotte Friedman reported that Mitch Marner will NOT play in tomorrow’s game against the Winnipeg Jets and that the team is being careful with him after his collision with teammate Jake Muzzin in practice.
3rd Star: Auston Matthews – 1 G – 1 A – 2 PTS
No mustache, no problem. Entering tonight’s game, Matthews had scored a goal in four straight contests – six goals in that stretch – and he continued that tonight with a goal that tied the game at three late in the second period after the team was down by three goals at one point. On top of scoring his 14th goal of the season tonight, Matthews also tallied an assist on the Spezza goal to give himself his eighth multi-point game of the season so far. If he’s not scoring goals or dishing assists, Matthews is also playing well on the defensive side of the puck, however, we’ve been treated to watch all three of those things during this stretch of Maple Leafs hockey and he showed it yet again tonight with his stellar play. Without Marner on his wing, I was wondering what kind of game we’d see from Matthews, but it looked like he did pretty fine without Marner. However, it’d obviously be better with Marner on his wing.
2nd Star: Morgan Rielly – 0 G – 3 A – 3 PTS
Despite taking two penalties in the game, Rielly had himself a good offensive game on the scoresheet as he registered three assists of his own tonight. With his offensive outburst tonight, Rielly also made a couple of very important defensive plays in the game that helped prevent potential goals for the Minnesota Wild, especially that two-on-one chance in overtime when he deflected Eriksson Ek’s shot into the netting to stop the play. Rielly has been by far Toronto’s best defenseman this season. Offensively, defensively, he’s done it all for this team, and it honestly feels like ever since he re-signed with the team on that 8-year deal a couple of weeks into the season, he’s taken his play to the next level this season and it’s a great thing to watch right now.
1st Star: Jason Spezza – 2 G – 1 A – 3 PTS
When nothing was going right for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight, Jason Spezza was there to get the guys going with a couple of important goals of his own which cut the Wild lead to 3-1 and then 3-2 in the second period. For someone who is 38 years old and has made league minimum for three straight seasons, you literally can’t hate this man and you should always appreciate what he does on the ice because it’s clear as day that he’s still got it, despite his age. He opened the scoring for the Leafs with a weird goal from behind the goal line that bounced off of Talbot’s head and in and then scored a quick slap shot in the slot on the power-play to give Toronto two quick goals. He continued his excellent play through the third period and into overtime until he went down the tunnel with an apparent hand injury after a penalty was called in overtime.
40th Star: Justin Holl – 0 G – 0 A – 0 PTS
It’s just simply not been Justin Holl’s season and it’s honestly frustrating to watch as a Maple Leafs fan. Whether he’s injured, gotten worse, or something is up with him, he’s just simply not been good this season and showed it yet again in tonight’s game against the Wild. His skating in transition from offense to defense was hard to watch and looks like he’s in quicksand trying to skate, his box-outs in front of the net didn’t go as planned tonight as a pass went off of him and in which gave Minneosta a 2-0 lead early in the second period and just all around he hasn’t looked good and he stood out in a bad way to me tonight.