Backed by an impressive record, long winning streak and one of the NHL’s superstars, the Maple Leafs were a benchmark for Wild and its recent rise.
Now others might start saying that about Wild.
The team confirmed its emergence as one of the best in the league on Saturday, surpassing Toronto 4-3 in a shootout ahead of 18,568 at the Xcel Energy Center to secure a season-high sixth win in a row, while Toronto just handed over its third loss . the last 18 matches.
No team in the NHL has more wins than Wild (17), and its 35 points are a draw for most in the Western Conference after sweeping a five-game home game.
“It’s not easy to play against Wild,” said defender Matt Dumba. “I think you’ll start to see that change, and hopefully it lifts our game.”
Kirill Kaprizov scored the decisive goal in the penalty shootout, the first of his career, and goalkeeper Cam Talbot stopped two out of three Maple Leafs shooters after making 39 stops through regulation and overtime.
The action, which went all the way to the last possible phase, showed how equal each other these teams are, but it also pointed to a tough second period by Wild, who blew a three-goal lead for the first time this season.
Jason Spezza started Toronto’s comeback after 12 minutes and 47 seconds before scoring again on powerplay at 5:51 p.m. Auston Matthews, who led the NHL in goals last season, added another powerplay goal with 50 seconds left of the third.
“We just have to understand that we have to play the right way all the time,” said Marcus Foligno. “We turned the pucks around and it led to power games for them and they will take advantage of that.”
That sloppiness showed up after an attentive start by Wild.
Both sides were engaged in an emotional process until Jordan Greenway crashed into Matthews, where he started a fight between Foligno and Wayne Simmonds and ignited an intensity that Greenway’s line with Foligno and Joel Eriksson Ek partyed throughout the match as he walked between them. v. Matthews and Co.
“I thought it was an opportunity to frustrate him … and just to show them that we came and we did not back down,” Greenway said. “I really think that was what started things.”
Not even two minutes later, with 24 seconds left of the first period, Greenway buried rebound from a Dumba shot that hit the post for his second goal in the last three games.
In the second period, Mats Zuccarello’s centering feed flew off Maple Leafs’ Justin Holl and flew behind goalkeeper Jack Campbell at 5:21, a goal that got a 0-to-21 drought on the powerplay. This unit went 1-to-5 overall.
Kaprizov’s assist on goal was his 11th point during a season-high five-game point streak.
Then, at 8:07, Eriksson Ek’s shot hit the referee and Foligno buried the loose puck to put Wild ahead 3-0.
BOXSCORE: Wild 4, Toronto 3 (SO)
Not only was the goal Foligno’s fifth in his last eight games, but it marked the first time in his 11-year NHL career that he reached the 10-goal plateau for three seasons in a row.
“We know what we have to do to help this team win matches,” said Eriksson Ek, who picked up two assists. “I think we created a lot on the pre-check, just we were trying to get sticks in there and be a hard line to play.”
Despite a setting performance of that line, Wild still faded the rest of the period before recalibrating in the third.
The team was also called in during overtime, which included an abbreviated powerplay for the Maple Leafs.
In the shootout, Zuccarello opened the scoring and Matthews answered for Toronto with a high-reel backhander. But Kaprizov responded with his own flashy move, a float on the top shelf over Campbell, who had 37 saves.
Talbot, who prevented William Nylander in regulation with his block, made another stop on Nylander in the shootout to end the victory – an achievement that Wild could look back on as a turning point in his season.
“We certainly show everyone and ourselves that we can play with anyone,” Greenway said. “We can.”