1. Leafs open scoring on Kadri's third goal in two games, but Wild tie it with less than two minutes in first period. The Leafs and Wild squared off in Toronto's second of a three-game home stand Wednesday, and the Buds were playing without the services of sophomore centre Auston Matthews, who missed his first career NHL regular-season game with an upper-body injury. But the Leafs took the first lead of the night at 12:56 of the first period when centre Nazem Kadri netted his ninth goal of the year.
Kadri had a pair of goals in Toronto's 4-3 shootout victory over Las Vegas Monday, and his goal on Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk put him nearly one-third of the way toward the career-best goals total of 32 he registered in 2016-17. However, the Wild (who outshot the Buds 9-6 in the opening frame) managed to even the score with 1:45 left before the first intermission. Minnesota has struggled to reproduce their stellar 2016-17 campaign, posting a 5-6-2 record entering Wednesday's action. But they're still a speedy, veteran club that can take advantage of any opponent's slip-up, and getting on the scoreboard before the end of the first was an important step in establishing momentum the rest of regulation time.
Video: MIN@TOR: Marleau lights the lamp off Hyman's dish
2. Marleau, Hyman hook up early in second period to put Toronto back in front. With Matthews out of the lineup, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock did some major line-juggling, and one of his new lines featured veteran forward Patrick Marleau - who's spent most of his time on the wing - playing centre between winger Zach Hyman and Connor Brown. That combination hooked up beautifully early in the middle period when Hyman set up Marleau directly in front of Dubnyk, and Marleau instantly fired the puck into Minnesota's net for his sixth goal of the year at 3:47 of the second.
When Toronto GM Lou Lamoriello signed Marleau as an unrestricted free agent this past summer, he did so knowing the 38-year-old's versatility and consistency could be a huge help to the club. Thus far, Marleau has delivered exactly as advertised, scoring and setting up goals and playing on both special teams. In Matthews' absence, he also stepped up to provide a boost on offence.
Video: MIN@TOR: Andersen kicks out right pad to rob Cullen
3. Wild outshoot Buds in middle frame, but Andersen turns aside all shots he sees in period to keep Toronto ahead entering third. The Wild utilized their swiftness in the second and outshot the Leafs by a more than 2:1 ratio (14-6), but goalie Frederik Andersen was sharp and prevented Minnesota from tying it up entering the final regulation period.
Andersen was solid in overtime and the shootout in Toronto's 4-3 win over Las Vegas, and his play is getting stronger. That in turn gives his teammates confidence they'll be able to take a few more chances per game, but the Leafs have to be careful of surrendering too many man advantages - they gave Minnesota three in a row to start the second period - and do a better job of limiting scoring chance quality in front of their netminder.
Video: MIN@TOR: Carrick gets goal on lucky deflection
4. Carrick's first of the season puts Leafs up by two early in third, shows Toronto's scoring depth. Toronto started the third frame strongly and registered their third of the night at the 3:40 mark of the frame when blueliner Connor Carrick's shot from the point was deflected by a Minnesota player into the Wild net. The marker was his first of the year, going unassisted on the play, it gave the home team seven different players with a point on the Leafs' three goals.
It would be ideal to have Matthews out on the ice bringing his multitude of talents to battle, but the Buds' scoring depth was a major factor in carving out a little breathing room for Andersen in the second half of the third period.
5. Zucker scores second of the game to cut Leafs' lead to a single goal, but Andersen stays strong remainder of the way to give Toronto its second straight win. The Buds continued to be outshot by the Wild in the third and finished the night with 37 shots to Toronto's 19, but Andersen stayed composed - even after Zucker scored his second of the game with a power play goal at 15:01 of the period - and prevented the visitors from getting the game-tying marker. And with 30.3 seconds left and Dubnyk pulled for the extra attacker, Brown corralled the puck in Toronto's zone, quickly moved it up the ice and fired it into the empty net for his seventh of the year.
The win was the Leafs' second in a row, and set the team up to sweep their home stand when the Boston Bruins visit ACC Friday. Toronto will need to be prepared - especially given that Friday game is the first of a home-and-home showdown against the Bruins that finishes Saturday in Boston - but they've certainly shown they can weather a push or two from an opponent late in a contest and come away with a win.