Leafs top Wild without Matthews
TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs showed they can win without top-line center Auston Matthews on Wednesday night.
All it took was a few lucky bounces and stellar goaltending from Frederik Andersen, who made 35 saves, to defeat the Minnesota Wild 4-2.
“I thought there was no shots in the first for either team and no real opportunities, even though both (teams scored) goals, 1-1 after one,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said.
“I thought our team played really well. In the second, we took some penalties and we needed Freddie (Andersen) and the penalty kill, obviously. We scored timely goals tonight and found a way to win.”
Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau, Connor Carrick and Connor Brown each scored for the Maple Leafs (10-7-0), who have won two games in a row. Brown also had an assist.
“We’ve got depth,” Kadri said. “We’ve got guys that can fill in and do the job. Obviously, (Matthews is) a guy you can’t replace, so it’s tough, but we have a lot of guys who can handle some quality minutes, and I think that’s what happened. We were able to get some solid scoring.”
Jason Zucker scored twice for the Wild (5-7-2), and goaltender Devan Dubnyk made 15 stops. Eric Staal had two assists in Minnesota’s third consecutive loss.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result we wanted, but I thought we played a pretty complete game for the most part,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Hopefully it’s something to build on. We played the way we’re supposed to play. That’s why we had possession of the puck. That’s why we did a lot of good things.”
At 12:56 of the first period, Morgan Rielly’s shot from the point bounced off the end boards and went in off the skate of Dubnyk. Kadri was given credit for his ninth goal of the season.
Zucker flicked home the rebound on Staal’s shot at 18:15 of the first to create a 1-1 tie.
“We had a lot of scoring chances, it’s a step in the right direction, but we’ve got to bear down, we’ve got to score,” Zucker said. “I turned the puck over a few times and gave them some chances, too. We need to be better. I thought a lot of guys played really well. Overall, we need to find a way to win.”
Marleau scored his sixth goal of the season from the slot on a pass from Zach Hyman at 3:47 of the second period to give Toronto a 2-1 lead.
Andersen was tested a few times during the second period, which ended with the Wild holding a 23-12 advantage in shots on goal.
“He just stays with it,” Kadri said. “It doesn’t seem like anything really bothers him in there, which is great. You want to see that attribute in a goaltender, especially playing in a city like Toronto. He’s been rock solid for us. He’s got to play good, and he’s done nothing but that to give us a chance.”
Andersen said, “I think they’re a good defensive team and they play off the transition. They sit back a little bit and wait for their opportunities, and I think it’s something you’ve got to be careful of, obviously. I think we did a pretty good job with it today, though.”
Carrick picked up his first goal of the season when his shot from the right boards appeared to be deflected in at 3:40 of the third period, giving Toronto a 3-1 lead.
“It’s frustrating, hopefully we’re getting rid of those (bad bounces) early here,” said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, who had one assist. “And we get this thing turned around and start getting those bounces to go our way.”
Zucker hammered in a rebound on the power play for his fifth goal of the season at 15:01 of the third period to trim the lead to 3-2.
Brown scored into an empty net at 19:29 for his seventh goal of the season.
NOTES: With Toronto C Auston Matthews (upper-body injury) missing the game, Patrick Marleau started as the first-line center. It was the first game the 20-year-old Matthews has missed in his NHL career, ending a string of 98 straight regular-season and six playoff games played. ... The Maple Leafs recalled C Frederik Gauthier from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, but he was not in uniform. RW Kasperi Kapanen was loaned to the Marlies. ... Wild G Alex Stalock was expected to start but returned home for the birth of his child. G Niklas Svedberg was recalled from Iowa of the AHL to back up G Devan Dubnyk. ... The Wild visit the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. The Maple Leafs host the Boston Bruins on Friday.