JOHANNESHOV, Sweden — Looking down and out, playing on the second straight day and appearing on the verge of a fifth consecutive loss, Jake Middleton and Mats Zuccarello scored 2:32 apart in the third period to force overtime and get the Minnesota Wild a point for the second straight game. But William Nylander went coast to coast in overtime to deliver the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-3 overtime win to cap the Global Series.
Here’s what else you need to know:
- Defenseman Jon Merrill scored the other goal for the Wild, his first since Jan. 10 to snap a 48-game drought.
- The Wild got a second consecutive outstanding game from Sweden native Jonas Brodin and countryman Joel Eriksson Ek had six shots after having one against Ottawa the day before.
- Freddy Gaudreau returned to the lineup for the first time in 11 games and was on for three Maple Leafs goals.
- The Wild are winless in five in a row (0-3-2) and have dropped 11 of their past 14 (3-7-4). They are winless (0-1-3) in four all-time games in Europe (0-1-1 in Helsinki against Carolina in 2010). They are now off until they host Colorado on Friday.
- The Wild, four points back of a playoff spot heading into the rest of Sunday’s action, are seven points from 32nd in the EuroJournal and only four points ahead of Central Division cellar-dwelling Chicago but with two more games played.
Where are Kaprizov and Boldy?
It must be painful for Wild fans to watch their top players right now. Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy have simply not been good enough. Every game it seems, other team’s stars shine, with Sunday’s Leafs game another example. Kaprizov has just one even-strength goal this season, the same as Merrill, one fewer than defenseman Dakota Mermis, who could be headed to AHL Iowa after clearing waivers, and two fewer than Middleton. Kaprizov had a great chance to tie the game late in the second period but was stopped by Joseph Woll.
Boldy has zero goals in eight games since returning from an upper-body injury sustained in the second game of the season, which was when he scored his only goal of the season. Minnesota isn’t built to be successful without its highest-paid players being difference-makers. At least Kaprizov was more aggressive Sunday with four shots. Boldy, on the other hand, had one shot, was once again soft on pucks throughout the contest and left Morgan Rielly open for Toronto’s third goal.
Fleury over Gus
Coach Dean Evason said they debated long and hard over whether to come back with Filip Gustavsson for Sunday’s game, which came just 18 hours after the Swede finished the 2-1 shootout loss to Ottawa. It might have been unorthodox, but with just two games in two weeks, they felt comfortable with it.
But Evason ended up going with veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, who was coming off giving up eight goals in his last start a week ago against Dallas. Fleury was solid overall, though the Leafs hit the post three times in the first period. And Toronto’s first goal, a power-play tally by Auston Matthews, came off a juicy rebound in front.
Fruitless power play
The Wild once again lost the special teams battle, giving up one power-play goal and going 0 for 3 on the power play. But it was the latter that was truly aggravating because the Wild had three opportunities to tie the score at 2-2 in the second period only to stumble all over themselves on the alleged man advantage. They overpassed, didn’t get shots through and were bumped off pucks.
Their best chance was the third one when they moved Kaprizov to the left side. But Woll kept him at bay and naturally the Leafs extended their lead to 3-1 early in the third on Rielly’s tally.
The Wild’s power play fell to 25th in the EuroJournal at 15.6 percent (15.6) while their league-worst PK is now 38 for 58 (65.5 percent).
1. William Nylander, Maple Leafs: The Swedish face of the Global Series recorded a point for his 17th consecutive game and won the game in OT on a beauty.
2. Mats Zuccarello, Wild: One game after assisting on Marco Rossi’s goal, Zuccarello had a goal and assist with family and friends in the crowd thanks to a five-hour train ride from Oslo, Norway. He also had four shots.
3. Marcus Foligno, Wild: He beat out an icing, then drew a penalty in the second period, and in the third period, won a puck battle before setting up Middleton’s goal.
“Lot to be proud about (these two games), but still a sour taste we let two points slip away,” Foligno said. “But we got two and we built our game back up a little bit.”
(Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT News Agency/AFP via Getty)