Staal scores, Wild beat the Maple Leafs in OT

Published 10:06 am Thursday, December 8, 2016

TORONTO — Eric Staal never has trouble finding motivation when he’s up against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Staal scored yet another goal against Toronto, lifting the Minnesota Wild to a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night.

Staal has 47 points in 43 career games against Toronto, and three of his six goals this season have come against the Leafs.

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“It was a team I grew up watching,” the 32-year-old center said. “So I always have a little spot in my heart for the Leafs because of growing up with Hockey Night in Canada there in Thunder Bay and people there are Leafs fans, that’s who they watch and I was no different as a kid. “

Jason Zucker and Chris Stewart also scored for the Wild, who wrapped a five-game trip 2-1-2.

Ben Smith and Tyler Bozak had goals for the Maple Leafs, who dropped to 8-4-0 at Air Canada Centre.

Toronto entered the third period down a goal and pushed hard but couldn’t get the equalizer because of goalie Devan Dubnyk, who stopped all 17 shots in the final 20 minutes and 35 in total.

Dubnyk leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.65), save percentage (.946) and shutouts (four).

“He seems to go down in that butterfly and post to post is covered, he does a great job fighting traffic and tonight he made a few timely saves,” Toronto’s Nazem Kadri said.

Frederik Andersen stopped 17 shots for Toronto.

Minnesota opened the scoring 8:42 into the first period after forcing a turnover from Kadri behind his own net. Mikko Koivu stripped Kadri and made a short pass to Mikael Granlund, who then put the puck out front to Zucker. He beat Andersen blocker side for a 1-0 lead.

Andersen was later forced to make a fine pad save on Granlund from the slot, but then Stewart made it 2-0 when he was sprung in alone on a breakaway off a long pass from Jared Spurgeon.

It was Stewart’s first goal at Air Canada Centre — he grew up in Toronto and had family in the crowd watching.

“I’ve been thinking about that one my whole life,” Stewart said. “It’s good to get it off the bucket list.”

Smith got one back for Toronto with 3:10 to go in the period. Kadri crossed Minnesota’s blue line and put a shot on net that Dubnyk kicked out to the slot, where Smith was waiting to push it in for a 2-1 game.

Staal regained the two-goal lead for the Wild just 1:15 into the second period, putting a backhand shot past Andersen after taking a pass from behind the net from Charlie Coyle.

It took Toronto over five minutes to register its first shot on net in the second.

Bozak scored with an individual effort to make it 3-2 at 10:54. Bozak stole the puck in Minnesota’s end, skated by Matt Dumba and beat Dubnyk with a backhand up top.

Linesman Steve Miller was hit in the left knee by a slap shot from Roman Polak in the opening minute of the third period and instantly dropped to the ice in pain. He skated off with assistance and didn’t return, leaving the game to be finished with three officials instead of four.

Toronto had one final opportunity to even the score late when Ryan Suter took a minor penalty, but Minnesota killed it off.


Dubnyk was making the 300th career start. He entered with the best save percentage in the league at .946. … Connor Carrick replaced Martin Marincin on Toronto’s blue line. … Antoine Bibeau backed up Andersen while Karri Ramo made his first start for the AHL Marlies against Utica. He made 33 saves in a 3-2 loss.

Up next

Wild: Return home to host the Oilers on Friday night.

Maple Leafs: Play at Boston on Saturday night.