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Maple Leafs blank fading Wlld 3-0

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The Toronto Maple Leafs kept their flickering playoff hopes alive by all but ending Minnesota's chances.

Joffrey Lupul and Mikhail Grabovski each scored goals to get Toronto's top two lines going and lead the Maple Leafs to a 3-0 victory on Tuesday over Minnesota, stretching the Wild's winless streak to seven games.

"You could just see the energy in our whole team," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "It wasn't just the goalie. Everybody was on top of things."

Rookie James Reimer posted his third career shutout and won his third straight start, improving to 7-0-1 in his last eight road games and helping Toronto keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. The Leafs stayed within five points of eighth-place Buffalo.

Reimer had about a dozen family and friends in attendance from his tiny hometown in Manitoba, about 10 hours north of St. Paul, in the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center.

"You want to make them proud," Reimer said.

The 10th-place Maple Leafs, the NHL's second-youngest team, are still a long shot with eight games to go. But they passed last season's points total and raised their record after the All-Star break to 14-6-5, a sign of progress for general manager Brian Burke's group.

"There's room for improvement. I think we gave them four breakaways, so you never want to give a team chances like that," said Lupul, a midseason acquisition from Anaheim. "But other than guys getting behind us, I think we were pretty solid. We played really well on our own end and made our chances count on offense."

Carl Gunnarsson added a goal early in the third period to delight the thousands of blue-and-white-jersey-wearing Maple Leafs fans who came down from Canada to catch just the fifth trip Toronto has made to Minnesota in the Wild's 10-year existence.

Grabovski's line, including Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur, and Lupul's line -- Tyler Bozak is the center between him and Phil Kessel -- have been quiet lately, contributing just two goals in Toronto's last four games.

But Just 99 seconds into the game, Lupul charged up the left wing and let a shot fly from the left circle that eluded Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom with defenseman Brent Burns late to cover. The roar from the Leafs fans in the crowd was as loud as a cheer for the home team, a deflating start for a Wild squad coming off the franchise's worst defeat ever -- an 8-1 pasting by Montreal on Sunday.

The Wild have given up the game's first goal in each of the last seven games, during which they managed only an overtime loss to Columbus on Saturday while tumbling out of the Western Conference race.

"I think guys are squeezing sticks. We all understand where we're at," forward Matt Cullen said. "Everybody wants to win badly."

The Wild outshot the Maple Leafs 29-17, but Reimer was flawless. John Madden found himself on two shorthanded breakaways, once on a 3-on-5 situation in the second period, but Reimer stopped him both times.

"Timing is everything," Madden said. "One of those go in, a short-handed goal, it changes momentum of the game."

Cullen and Chuck Kobasew also had one-on-ones foiled by Reimer.

"Just a game-changer," defenseman Keith Aulie said.

Grabovski's shot from the slot midway through the second period it 2-0, and Gunnarsson went top shelf over Backstrom, for his clincher. The Wild matched their third-longest winless streak in history; the last came seven years ago. The record is 12, in their inaugural season.

"There's a lot of emotion right now," coach Todd Richards said. "Especially after losses you have to be really careful, the things that you say and do."

Burns and his fellow All-Star Martin Havlat have struggled during the skid, with just one assist apiece over their last seven games.

"Maybe we're not getting our head out and shooting to score," Madden said. "We're looking for rebounds and stuff, and that's not the way you score a goal. You rip pucks and try to score a goal off your shot, and the rebounds will go in the right spot."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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