For about 30 minutes on Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center, Wilde watched the Stanley Cup contender’s part. They went for the blow with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and after an offensive blast in the middle of the game, found themselves on the verge of a blowout victory.
But the Maple Leafs are also a Stanley Cup contender, and they showed it as they easily erased a three-goal deficit within minutes.
Maybe this method was better. This heavyweight bout deserved to go far.
In a marquee matchup that some were teasing as premature as the Stanley Cup preview, Wilde and the Maple Leafs proved it would be the heck of a series. It felt like playoff hockey for 65 minutes as both teams showed off their offensive skills early on, then refused to let the stretch down an inch.
To be honest, it is unfortunate that such a terrible game had to be decided upon in Shootout. In the end, however, Matt Zucarello and Kirill Kaprizov converted in a shootout, Cam Talbot made some saves, and Wilde went on with a highly entertaining 4-3 win.
When asked if he thought Wilde made a statement with the win over the Maple Leafs, Matt Dumba replied, “I think we did.” He mentioned how the game was being played on Hockey Night in Canada, which meant more eyeballs than usual.
“We really don’t get a lot of attention[from outside]Minnesota,” Dumba said. “For people to see us compete against top teams and win, I think that’s huge.”
“Yeah that’s great,” said Jordan Greenway. “I think we’re definitely showing everyone and ourselves that we can play with anyone.”
After a first back-and-forth period that proved both teams were on the same field of play, Greenway gave Wilde the lead with 24 seconds remaining in the frame. He collected a loose puck near the crease after a big blast by Damba, then calmly fired a shot into the back of the net.
“It can feel like we’re feeling each other a little bit,” said Marcus Foligno. “At the end of that period we felt really comfortable with our game.”
This showed that Wilde started the second period in a hurry, scoring a goal from Zuccarello to make it 2–0, then a goal from Foligno followed by a sudden jump in front to extend the lead to 3–0.
That’s when the invincible Jason Spieza took charge of the Maple Leafs.
The 38-year-old Kendra started the rally with a highly volatile target to reduce the deficit to 3-1. His opening shot came from behind the net, deflected from Jordi Benn, then Cam went past Talbot’s top shelf. Shortly thereafter Spezza scored a more traditional goal from the slot to make it 3–2.
The attack continued after a minute and a half as star center Auston Matthews helped the Maple Leafs tie the game 3-3 on the power play.
Suddenly the game was very high in the air as both teams headed towards the locker room.
“We talked to the group,” said coach Dean Evans. “We made some mistakes. We paced them. And it bit us. The biggest message was, we’re even, right? We were even. We weren’t down.”
This set the stage for the third period where the Maple Leafs took some penalties early in the frame to gift Wilde an extended 5-on-3. They failed to convert into power play despite a handful of opportunities, and when both teams tampered with goals, the game went into overtime.
Neither team scored in the extra season and the game went into a shootout where Wilde eventually won a statement win to put the rest of the league on notice.
“When you have these games where the top teams are coming in, you’ve got your ‘A’ game,” Foligno said. “There’s a lot of talk going on about this game. It’s good to come out on top. Everyone was up for it and tonight we tried really well.”
This team is for real. There is no doubt about it.