It wasn’t a picturesque performance, but the Toronto Maple Leafs took care of business against a tired and struggling Minnesota Wild team with a four-goal second-period outburst on Tuesday night.

Your game in ten:

1.  It was almost another dud of an opening shift for the Leafs after Tyson Barrie threw a blind giveaway up the middle of the defensive zone for a scoring chance… and then almost a perfect first minute for the Leafs when Ryan Suter over-skated a puck and John Tavares sent William Nylander in alone on Devan Dubnyk just seconds later.

Nylander needs to start introducing more deceptiveness to his one-on-one moves when in alone on the goalie; he’s gone to that same easily-read forehand-backhand deke — where he’s either trying to tuck it five-hole or beat the goalie to the far post (unclear which) — several times already and NHL goalies are tracking it easily. The same goes for his shot — it’s super powerful, but there could be more deception with his release points. Goalies are so good now that adding a bit of deception in order to throw the netminder off his timing is so important to scoring goals in bunches in this league.

2.  It again wasn’t the first period the Leafs were looking for after emerging down 1-0 following a 20-minute period in which the Wild fairly successfully threw honey on the game and nicked themselves a goal.

The Leafs have got to get this sorted out, particularly on home ice. I mentioned the first-period numbers from last year in the previous review — 76 goals for in period one vs. 100+ in periods two and three — and if you break it down further by home/away, they were outscored 36-34 in first periods on home ice. That’s the only period in which the team was outscored last season, either home or away (stick tap to reader Sabeoth42 for the numbers).

Probably never going to happen, but it’s seriously tempting to start L4 and tell them to go throw a puck in the corner and start a forecheck.

3.  The silver lining is that while the Leafs have given up the first goal in six of seven games, they’ve given up eight total first-period goals while scoring seven themselves — so conceding first hasn’t bled into worse necessarily and they’ve recomposed themselves reasonably well for the most part.

As much as the Leafs need to sort this out, they did stay reasonably patient without forcing it, giving up much, or taking too many chances in the first — which is the key against trap teams — and took advantage when they had the Wild on the long change, successfully drawing some penalties and scoring four quick goals in the second period.

4.  It’s a small thing, but I thought it was worth mentioning: The Leafs started the second period on the penalty kill down 1-0 and Ilya Mikheyev had a nice PK shift, intercepting a pass at center ice and driving the puck down low in the offensive zone to kill time. The Leafs won the game with a good first 10-15 minutes to the second period, but it started there.

5.  After a frustrating opening frame where the line continued to look disjointed with Kasperi Kapanen on the left (swapping sides with Marner on occasion, which continued to look awkward), Babcock finally pulled the trigger on swapping Kapanen and Trevor Moore late in the first period. Everything clicked into place basically instantly. Moore made clever plays on back-to-back shifts in the early second period; one to leave the puck for Tavares along the wall before Tavares’ goal, and another heads-up pass into the middle of the slot for a scoring chance the very next shift.

The way the line was linking up, with the handedness properly aligned and a more heads-up player in Moore on the left wing, was instantly more seamless:

6.  It feels like Kasperi Kapanen changes his game somewhat when he moves up next to superstar centermen (be it Matthews or Tavares) rather than committing himself properly to the complementary Hyman-style role. Moore leads with his work ethic and plays the same kind of game no matter where he slots in — keeps his feet moving, pressuring the puck carrier, forcing errors, creating loose pucks for Tavares and Marner — while also having enough skill to complete plays. You could plug him in where Johnsson is now next to Matthews and get a similar result.

7.  The game really swung on an interesting sequence halfway through the second period with the game sitting at 2-1 Toronto. With four Leafs caught in deep and Ryan Donato taking off on a clear-cut breakaway, Ryan Hartman took an interference penalty away from the play to negate the chance. The Leafs scored on the ensuing power play via Andreas Johnsson.

The broadcast more focused on the faux pas by Hartman — fair enough — but it was a clever bit of embellishment by the veteran Jake Muzzin there as well. It’s nice to think no one would ever dive in the sport of hockey, but that’s obviously not true and there are times where it makes too much sense not to play it up. That was one such situation. Muzzin was quick on his feet once he felt contact by Hartman; he was beat and there was nothing to lose in trying to draw the call at that point, so he exaggerated the contact and fell over. It obviously worked out perfectly.

8.  Babcock should be firm with the team about the third period as an example of how not to close out wins. They took a couple of sloppy penalties (Andersen came up with a beauty glove save on one of the kills) and gave up a few too many looks, including one 2-on-1 after four Leafs bombed it up the ice and turned the puck over, leading to a big Andersen save. They also gave up a late goal after Tyson Barrie seemed to have one foot in the dressing room already.

A couple of penalties and a dangerous odd-man rush against is the recipe for throwing away a multi-goal lead in the third against a good team that can actually score (as in teams who can score more than zero goals off the rush like the Wild have all season). Maybe there was some mental bargaining going on with the game tomorrow, but regardless of the situation, the Leafs need to take care of business like a team that’s going places this year — i.e. good details and habits over 60 minutes are important and closing out games properly is important; spend time in the offensive zone (just six shots on goal in the third), take care of the puck, be smart, and stay disciplined.

9.  I’m expecting Mike Babcock to stay away from the fourth-line rotation and stick with Timashov – Gauthier – Shore again tomorrow night in Washington, even with the back-to-back situation. It’s true they were on for two goals against, but neither were really the fault of the forward unit. It makes sense for a couple reasons: 1) Even without any impact on the scoresheet, the fourth line again set up the other lines by taking on defensive zone faceoffs and driving play with solid o-zone shifts; 2) Babcock subbed in fresh legs against Montreal in the first back-to-back of the year and the team gave up a 4-1 lead in the third period anyway. I could be wrong, though.

10.  I don’t think the Leafs deserve much in the way of style points tonight, but taking two points off of a lowly team in a back-to-back, and getting Morgan Rielly (four assists!), John Tavares (one goal), and Mitch Marner (one goal, two assists) feeling good again, as well as some production out of the power play, was basically mission accomplished. Onto Washington.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Minnesota Wild

Game Highlights: Leafs 4 vs. Wild 2