Nylander scores twice, including OT winner, as Maple Leafs beat Red Wings
TORONTO — The Maple Leafs' stars are starting to heat up with the regular season just over the horizon.
And a rookie making a surprise push for a roster spot took another step toward joining Toronto's big names on opening night.
William Nylander scored his second goal of the evening at 1:24 of overtime Thursday as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in pre-season play.
After the home side barely touched the puck early in the extra period, Nylander fired past Red Wings goalie Alex Lyon to end OT.
Auston Matthews, with a goal and an assist, and Tyler Bertuzzi also scored for Toronto. Mitch Marner added two assists, while Ilya Samsonov made 20 saves.
Nate Danielson, Jonatan Berggren and Dominik Shine replied for Detroit. Shayne Gostisbehere chipped in two assists. Lyon stopped 34 shots.
The Maple Leafs dressed much of their NHL roster in what was most regulars' pre-season swan song, while the Red Wings left many of theirs at home for the penultimate exhibition contest.
"We stepped up our game there in the third," Nylander said of a final 20 minutes where Toronto held a 14-3 shot edge. "That's how we want to play."
The Maple Leafs gave Fraser Minten, 19, another look at centre as he aims to crack the roster for a team that opens the regular season against the Montreal Canadiens back at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday.
Selected with the 38th pick at the 2022 NHL draft, the six-foot-two, 192-pound Vancouver native entered with a goal and three assists in four pre-season games.
Minten, who finished with just under 13 minutes of ice time on a line with Matthew Knies and Calle Jarnkrok, had two shots, two hits and won eight of 12 faceoffs in another solid performance.
"He was good, just as he's been," Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. "He played smart, he competed, he had good pace, good speed on the puck, did well on faceoffs.
"Played better than he's done some other games."
Minten has surged to the cusp of making the team thanks to a solid, defensively responsible pre-season on a roster that includes the likes Matthews, Marner, Nylander and Toronto captain John Tavares.
"The star-struck factor is a little bit gone after practising with them for a few weeks," Minten said. "But still super cool to be out there with them on this big rink with all the fans."
"Nothing but a ton of fun, honestly," he added of the overall experience. "I've loved every minute of it so far."
The Maple Leafs took a 1-0 lead when Nylander scored with the teams playing 4-on-4 in the first, but Danielson — the ninth overall selection at June's draft — tipped home an equalizer as he continued to make his case to stick with Detroit.
The visitors then made it 2-1 six seconds into a power play when Berggren beat Samsonov.
Toronto got back even late in the first on a 5-on-3 man advantage when Matthews fired past Lyon.
The home side went back in front midway through the second when Bertuzzi jumped on a turnover and snapped home his first with the Maple Leafs after signing in free agency.
"Getting better," Matthews said of the chemistry with Bertuzzi and Marner on Toronto's top line. "We're starting to get a feel for each other out there, and starting to create more offence and have extended offensive zone shifts where we're really working the puck down low."
The back-and-forth tilt swung back level late in the period when Samsonov gave the puck away behind his net and Shine buried the equalizer to make it 3-3 through 40 minutes.
The Maple Leafs started to flex their muscle in the third, but Samsonov, who had trouble holding onto his goalie stick all night, had to be sharp with under three minutes to go in regulation on a scramble in front.
"There's always some good and some bad," Matthews said. "Third period, we really just dialled it in. Rolling four lines, playing aggressive, but playing smart.
"The way we'd like to continue to play."
Nylander, who started training camp at centre, moved back to the wing beside Tavares and Max Domi, who also signed in free agency this summer, with Minten in the middle on the Leafs' third line.
"Me and John have had a great chemistry the times we've been playing together," Nylander said. "Getting Max out there, we have a great line.
"But I'm ready to play wherever Sheldon wants me to play."
Former Toronto defenceman Justin Holl played his first game in Toronto since signing a three-year, US$10.2-million contract with Detroit in free agency.
Keefe, who coached the blueliner in both the AHL and with the Maple Leafs, said it was strange seeing Holl don red and white.
"Seen him in blue and white for a lot of years," he sad. "Justin was a really good player for us and for me. Gave us a lot of good years and minutes.
"I'm happy to see him get paid."
The Red Wings welcome the Maple Leafs for a Saturday rematch to conclude both teams' pre-season schedules.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2023.
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