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Postgame Hat Trick: Maple Leafs 4, Wild 1

Minnesota falls short in final game of 2019 Tuesday in St. Paul

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /'s Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 4-1 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Tuesday evening:

1. The Maple Leafs jumped ahead early and never looked back. 

Alexander Kerfoot's one-timer from the slot 5:55 into the contest gave Toronto a lead it would never relinquish. At that point in the game, the Leafs had one goal and the Wild had one shot. 

Late in the period, it was yet another goal in the final minute that would prove damaging when a mad scramble around Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk resulted in a William Nylander goal with just 30.2 seconds left. 

Instead of a one-goal deficit into the second period, it was two, and the hole proved too steep to climb out of. 

Minnesota, which had just two regulation losses on home ice in its first 15 games, has now lost the first two games of a four-game homestand and a stretch of 15-of-18 on home ice. 

Back-to-back games against Winnipeg and Calgary this weekend will open the 2020 portion of the schedule and it's imperative the Wild gets itself righted as the new year begins.

2. Mikko Koivu returned to the lineup.

After playing in game 1,000 earlier this month at St. Paul, Koivu sustained a lower-body injury in game No. 1,001 in Florida, missing the next 12 games. On day 28, Koivu was back and made his presence felt, securing an assist on Ryan Suter's second-period power-play goal for point No. 701 in his NHL career. 

Koivu's return meant the return of a couple lineup staples from the end of November, when he centered Kevin Fiala and Zach Parise. It was also the return of the GEEK Squad line of Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin that had so much chemistry before injuries forced Bruce Boudreau to put his lines in a blender.

3. Marcus Foligno's physical play seemed to turn the tide of the game. 

Minnesota came out of the gate a little sluggish, especially in the second period. When Auston Matthews scored on the power play to give the Maple Leafs a 3-0 lead a few minutes into the middle frame, things looked bleak for Minnesota.

Enter Foligno, who was moved up to a line with Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello and immediately asserted himself with a big hit on Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott, a hit that seemed to awaken a quiet Xcel Energy Center.

From that moment on, the Wild skated with more energy and more conviction, eventually hitting the scoreboard on Suter's shot from the point that got through a bunch of traffic in front. 

Even after Toronto was gifted about a three-minute stoppage, first because of a potential review that wasn't, then an actual timeout, the Wild continued its push but couldn't find a way to trim the deficit before the second intermission. 

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