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Wild suffer minor setback in loss to Maple Leafs

That result came after they rediscovered their identity earlier this week with a blowout win on home ice

Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) shoots on Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29), defenseman Jake Middleton (5) and defenseman Jared Spurgeon (46) in the first period Nov. 25, 2022, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) shoots on Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29), defenseman Jake Middleton (5) and defenseman Jared Spurgeon (46) in the first period Nov. 25, 2022, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Matt Blewett / USA Today Sports
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — After rediscovering their identity earlier this week with a blowout win on home ice, the Wild suffered a minor setback on Friday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center. Though they managed to keep the game close for the better part of 60 minutes, the Wild couldn’t muster enough offense in a 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs.

Asked about the game itself, coach Dean Evason struggled to find a negative about the way his team played. Aside from the final score.

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“We thought it was a great hockey game back and forth,” Evason said. “We thought we played really well.”

It was even a good start for the Wild despite the fact that Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner drew first blood with a wrist shot through traffic that made it 1-0. The puck appeared to glance off of Matt Dumba before hitting the back of the net.

The response from the Wild was impressive as Kirill Kaprizov leveled the score at 1-1 on the power play. He posted up near the crease and hammered home a rebound after an initial shot from Joel Eriksson Ek.

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“We had the energy,” Evason said. “We rolled right away. Our first period was real good. It has to continue to do that.”

That score was shortlived, though, as less than a minute later Maple Leafs winger Zach Aston-Reese unleashed a spinning shot that somehow snuck past Marc-Andre Fleury in the crease.

“It’s definitely a stupid goal,” said Fleury, who missed the past week and a half with an upper-body injury. “I feel bad giving up that one.”

Still, the Wild made up for it early in the second period when Matt Boldy helped the Wild tie the game at 2-2. finishing off a perfect pass from Alex Goligoski off the rush.

Minnesota Wild center Mason Shaw (15) is checked by Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mark Giordano (55) and left wing Pierre Engvall (47) after a save by goaltender Matt Murray (30) in the second period Nov. 25, 2022, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Minnesota Wild center Mason Shaw (15) is checked by Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mark Giordano (55) and left wing Pierre Engvall (47) after a save by goaltender Matt Murray (30) in the second period Nov. 25, 2022, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Matt Blewett / USA Today Sports

“I knew he was gonna keep going there,” Goligoski said. “I think whoever the guy that was on him kind of stopped skating a little bit. I just thought try to get it in there. I’m glad he kept going and was ready for it.”

With the game hanging in the balance midway through the second period, a blocked shot landed right in front of Maple Leafs winger Calle Jarnkrok, who made it 3-2 with an easy goal.

As the Wild threatened to tie it in the third period. Maple Leafs goaltender Matt Murray twice knocked the net off its moorings. He also did it once earlier in the game.

“It’s a trend with that goaltender,” Evason said with exasperation in his voice. “You can’t knock the net off three times and not get anything out of it. It doesn’t make any sense. We have offensive time in there and sustained time. We could get more opportunities and all of a sudden it stalled out and momentum is gone. I don’t understand it.”

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Not long after Murray knocked the net off its moorings, Maple Leafs winger William Nylander ripped a shot from the slot to stretch the lead to 4-2. That proved to be enough.

Though the Wild got a goal from Mats Zuccarello to cut the deficit to 4-3, that was as close as they got. In the final moments, Kaprizov had a chance to tie it, and Murray made a huge save to effectively end the game.

Asked about the final sequence, Evason noted how Kaprizov scores 99 times out of 100 in that scenario.

“He hits it hard and he makes a great save,” Evason said. “We had the looks. Everything was executed correctly from whenever we pulled and we definitely gave ourselves a chance at the end.”

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mac Hollowell (81) and Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek (14) tangle after a save by goaltender Matt Murray (30) in the second period Nov. 25, 2022, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mac Hollowell (81) and Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek (14) tangle after a save by goaltender Matt Murray (30) in the second period Nov. 25, 2022, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Matt Blewett / USA Today Sports

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