Published January 19, 2012
TORONTO – Phil Kessel scored his team-leading 25th goal and Joffrey Lupul picked up three assists to help the Toronto Maple Leafs snap a three-game skid with a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.
Nazem Kadri, Joey Crabb and Mikhail Grabovski also had goals for Toronto, which avoided its first four-game losing streak since last season.
That was more than enough offense for Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson, whose shutout bid ended when Nick Johnson scored with under 3 minutes remaining. Gustavsson finished with 20 saves.
The Wild, beset by injuries to captain Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse, fell to 2-10-3 since Dec. 17 — when they sat atop the NHL standings.
With Toronto stuck in its skid, coach Ron Wilson decided to split Kessel and Lupul for the first time this season and the line change paid immediate dividends when Kadri opened the scoring just 50 seconds in.
A healthy scratch for Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Ottawa, the rookie was inserted into the lineup alongside Lupul and Tim Connolly and got his fourth goal of the season with a backhander off a rebound.
Crabb quickly extended the lead with a nice solo effort at 5:11.
Like Wilson, Wild coach Mike Yeo has been juggling his lineup to try and coax more out of his players. Yeo had journeyman Warren Peters centering the top line between Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.
That line generated the best early chance against Gustavsson, who calmly gloved Heatley's one-timer midway through the second period. He also kicked out a pad to deny the big winger in the third.
Kessel was placed on a line with Tyler Bozak and Matthew Lombardi and scored a power-play goal with Lupul on the ice. He knocked a rebound past Niklas Backstrom with 4:12 to go in the second to push the lead to 3-0.
Grabovski made it a four-goal cushion early in the third after the puck found the net off his skate.
Backstrom stopped 29 shots for Minnesota.
Notes: Backstrom, who had been sick, got his first start since Jan. 7 ... Keith Aulie and Jay Rosehill sat out for Toronto ... Minnesota's record dropped to 0-9-2 in its last 11 road games ... Former Wild GM Doug Risebrough, now a scout for the New York Rangers, took in the game ... Wild players brought their fathers on the current road trip.