TORONTO – Auston Matthews scored twice to help the Toronto Maple Leafs snap a three-game losing streak with a 3-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
Matthews scored the winner with 9:38 remaining in the third period with the game tied. He stripped Wild fourth-line right wing Brandon Duhaime of the puck outside the Minnesota blue line.
Matthews then turned the other way for a give-and-go goal with linemate Mitch Marner. Matthew’s 35th and 36th goals pushed him past Edmonton Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl for the league lead.
Alex Kerfoot completed the deal with an empty netter in the final minute. The Wild (31-14-4) outshot the Maple Leafs (33-14-4) 30-25.
Petr Mrazek was given the start in goal for the Maple Leafs over the struggling Jack Campbell. Mrazek made a late-game save on Duhaime to hold on for the win.
Mrazek kept the game goalless early in the second period during a Wild power play with two big stops on Minnesota forward Matt Boldy.
But then Boldy set up shop behind the Toronto goal and slid a perfect pass to Frederick Gaudreau for the icebreaker just over eight minutes into the second period.
Matthews and the top line were caught on the ice for Gaudreau’s goal, but 27 seconds later, Matthews took a Timothy Liljegren pass in the neutral zone in full flight.
Matthews employed Wild defender Dmitry Kulikov as a screen for the first of two goals before a crowd of 9,410 at Scotiabank Arena.
Before their morning skate, the Maple Leafs assembled for a stick salute as part of a video message for 2020 first-round draft choice (15th overall) Rodion Amirov.
The 20-year-old Amirov revealed on Wednesday he was in Germany undergoing treatment for a brain tumour as his KHL season was cut short to 10 games.
“It’s obviously a difficult thing to be going through,” Toronto captain John Tavares said. “But he’s in good spirits, fighting hard. We believe in him, and he’s a big part of our family here. He has tremendous talent and potential, but as a human being, we know he’s very motivated to beat this.”
The recent play of the Maple Leafs three-game losing streak entering the game spilled over to the goalless first period against the Wild.
The Maple Leafs’ best scoring chance occurred in the opening frame when fourth-liner Wayne Simmonds picked off a pass from Kirill Kaprizov in the Minnesota end. Simmonds set up Michael Bunting, but his shot grazed the post.
This report was first published by The Canadian Press Feb. 24, 2022.
© 2022 The Canadian Press