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Wild stay unbeaten at home, trip up Maple Leafs

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal signed with the Minnesota Wild in the offseason looking to prove he still had some gas in the tank. So far he looks like he's nowhere near empty.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) protects the puck from Minnesota Wild forward Zac Dalpe (27) during the first period at Xcel Energy Center. Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) protects the puck from Minnesota Wild forward Zac Dalpe (27) during the first period at Xcel Energy Center. Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Eric Staal signed with the Minnesota Wild in the offseason looking to prove he still had some gas in the tank. So far he looks like he's nowhere near empty.

Staal scored his second goal of the game midway through the third period as the Wild stayed unbeaten at home, coming from behind for a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Goalie Devan Dubnyk's 31 saves, combined with earlier goals by Zac Dalpe and Staal helped improve the Wild to 3-1-0, as they swept a three-game homestand.

Staal, who came to the Wild as a free agent after scoring a career-worst 13 goals last season, circled from the lower right corner of the offensive zone and snapped off a low shot that beat Toronto goalie Jhonas Enroth at 11:53 of the third period. He now has three goals in Minnesota's first four games.

"It feels good to contribute. Anytime you come to a new team, you want to be a contributing player right away," Staal said. "I never felt like I forgot how to play. I knew I could play and I've been in this league a long time. But I needed to come here and be ready in training camp, and be fit and hungry. I've done that, and now it's about continuing to build."

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Enroth had 24 saves for the Maple Leafs (1-1-2). Toronto got goals from Roman Polak and star rookie Auston Matthews, but saw a third period lead fade away for the second night in a row. The Maple Leafs led 4-0 in Winnipeg on Wednesday, before falling 5-4 in overtime.

"They played really hard. They came off a disappointing loss last night ... and their young guys they were determined not to lose today," Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It was a tough game. I thought the second period we made a couple mistakes that cost us goals. Overall I thought the second period we had the better of the play. And in the third period I thought Eric Staal's line was very good."

Minnesota trailed 2-1 after 40 minutes, but forged a tie early in the third via Dalpe's first goal of the season. He fought off a check from Connor Brown and was able to flip a high puck over Enroth's glove.

Toronto had the better of the play in the scoreless first period, out-shooting Minnesota 11-5 and testing Dubnyk often. The other end of the ice was relatively quiet for Enroth, who was making his first start for the Leafs after signing as a free agent in the late summer.

"You've got to give their goalie a lot of credit. And we shot it wide of lots of empty nets," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We're still set up though going into the third to find a way to win a game and we didn't do that. I didn't think we got on our heels at all tonight, though. I didn't think it was like the other night. In the end, they shot it in our net and we didn't shoot it in theirs."

The Leafs lost top line left wing Milan Michalek early in the second period when he left after getting hit in the hand by a shot. He returned in the third period.

Toronto made the first mark on the scoreboard when Polak got his first of the season, sending a high shot from the blue line past Dubnyk's glove. Minnesota needed less than a minute to forge a tie as a lead pass from Charlie Coyle sprang Staal on a breakaway, and the veteran tucked a backhand shot past Enroth.

Morgan Reilly appeared to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead with a shot from the blue line on the next shift, but the referees immediately waved it off, ruling that James van Riemsdyk interfered with Dubnyk prior to the shot.

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Instead it was Matthews putting Toronto up 2-1 later in the period, scoring on his own rebound with the Leafs on a power play. It was the first man-advantage goal giving up by Minnesota this season as Wild penalty killers were 12-for-12 to start the campaign.

"Back to back is not easy, especially for us young guys just coming into the league," said Matthews, who was the top pick in last summer's draft. "It was a challenge and I thought that first period was a great period for us. We came at them pretty hard and didn't give up much, kind of controlled the play a little bit. We caught a couple bad breaks and they were able to capitalize on some opportunities."

Related Topics: MINNESOTA WILD
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