The Maple Leafs produced a better effort in their game against the Minnesota Wild. Despite the fact that it wasn’t reflected in the final score.
Unlike previous games, Toronto managed to have a solid first period. They were 1:02 away from heading into the first intermission with a clean sheet, but Minnesota managed squeak one by Leafs netminder Jonathan Bernier. The goal marked the sixth consecutive game where Toronto trailed after one period of play.
Bernier held off the Wild for much of the night, allowing the Leafs to try and mount a late comeback.
“I thought we played well in the first and third period,” said Bernier. “In the second we had a bit of a letdown but we were still in the game at 1-0. I thought we played a much better game tonight."
Bernier made 30 saves on the night.
Dion Phaneuf had to step in (a little reluctantly given he injured his hand in a fight earlier this season) as he was engaged by Kyle Brodziak to fight immediately after Phaneuf delivered a clean hit. The tussle seemed to bring some energy into the building.
“You see a lot of that when there is a big hit and guys going down. You can look at it two ways, you can look at it as their team sticking up for themselves,” said Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek. “It’s a clean hit, you’d think it’d be okay but I’m sure that their team sticks together and they came in to defend him.”
Phaneuf’s only fights this season have come after he has delivered clean hits.
Jake Gardiner scored the lone goal for Toronto, coming in hard and inadvertently colliding with Sam Carrick to get to a loss puck in the Minnesota crease.
Joffrey Lupul assisted on Gardiner’s goal to snap a career long 17-game skid without registering a single point.
“It always feels nice to get to contribute,” Lupul said.
It’s been a rough road for Lupul this season which has been filled with a couple of injuries. He in in the midst of a 22-game goalless drought.
“I think it’s definitely affected him,” said Horachek of Lupul’s injuries. “I think he really hasn’t got up to speed with the strength of what he has, that breakaway speed. I think it has affected him but he’s trying and he’s pushing through.”
Defenceman Eric Brewer had one of his better nights as a Maple Leaf. This on a night where he was being honoured for reaching 1000 games on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.
There wasn’t anything flashy from his game. He delivered hits and he was at the right place at the right time.
It was a little bit of the Brewer that we remembered him for in his earlier years. A well-positioned defenceman who didn’t make a lot mistakes. A fitting night.