It started off as a fast paced and strong two-way game for both clubs, but the Maple Leafs just could not keep up with the Wild’s pressure for a full 60 minutes. Minnesota came into this game to make a statement, much like the Leafs did on Saturday night against the Red Wings. There were key chances for the Leafs to score, but a few bad breaks, including costly penalties, and missed opportunities cost the Leafs their 7 game point streak in a loss against the worst team in the Western Conference.
Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Minnesota had won 3 of their last 4 games heading into last night, and Niklas Backstrom (who earned his 100th win last night) has posted at least a 0.909 SV% in every start since October 17th. He, like Gustavsson, is thriving on the high shot totals. Unfortunately, last night Gustavsson had a poor outing as the Leafs failed to do much of anything defensively and he paid for it.
“We didn’t play a full 60 minutes and at times we looked really flat. We can’t play like that in our own building. We’ve got to learn from this because these are costly points. Just as we’re starting to creep back in past a few teams, it would have been a big two points for us,” said the now fourth liner Matt Stajan.
The Leafs let in 5 goals on 31 shots, including 3 goals on just 9 shots in the 2nd period. Last night is a game the Leafs hope to forget rather quickly.
Phil Kessel now has 3 points in his last 2 games and 4 points in 4 games on the season. He scored a beautiful breakaway goal last night after receiving the perfect long stretch pass from defenceman Jeff Finger.
Ron Wilson said all that was needed to be said after last night’s performance.
“We seem to struggle when it’s not a Saturday night game at home. Emotionally we came out a little flat, we were just content to move along,” said Wilson. “We’re not good enough to get full of ourselves after we’ve had a couple of good weeks. I was a little disappointed in our approach, but more teaching tools for me.”
“We made some bad decisions with the puck and without it,” said Leafs defenceman Francois Beauchemin. “It came back to haunt us.”
“Haunt” is the perfect word, as the Leafs got an early look at a Scrooge Christmas where the Ghosts of Games Past came to pay them a little visit.
The game seemed to take the wrong turn after Colton Orr tried to challenge Derek Boogaard to a fight early in the second period. Orr took an unnecessary penalty on the play and the Wild never looked back.
Toronto will now have a few days off before traveling to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks. They will then fly back home to host the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
Micheal A. Aldred