Staal scores twice as Wild beat Maple Leafs, 3-2
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Eric Staal signed with the Minnesota Wild ready to prove his skills hadn't diminished despite slipping to 13 goals in 83 games last season.
Through four games, Staal's scoring touch resembles the player who scored at least 30 goals in four of five seasons earlier in his career.
Staal scored twice and Minnesota recovered from another deficit to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Thursday night.
"I never felt like I forgot how to play," Staal said. "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. It's only been four games."
Zac Dalpe scored his first for the Wild, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 31 shots.
Led by Staal and new coach Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota has been able to pull itself out of the early deficits.
Staal has three goals in his first four games and his game-winner with 8 minutes left Thursday kept the Wild unbeaten in a three-game homestand despite allowing the first goal in each game.
"The only thing I say is, 'It's one shot,'" Boudreau said. "We don't think we're going to get one chance this period to score a goal? It's not insurmountable. We are going to get a chance to score. So just hold them off. I told them, 'All we have to do is win a period. Take it down to 20 minutes. You win the period. You win the game.'
Toronto let another third-period advantage slip away as No. 1 overall draft pick Auston Matthews continued his scorching rookie season with his fifth goal in four games. The Maple Leafs surrendered a four-goal lead in a 5-4 overtime loss a night earlier at Winnipeg.
"Kind of the same story as last night, but I think we were a little bit better," Matthews said. "We're getting to the front of the net more and getting more chances. They were able to capitalize on the very few we gave them and it turned out we don't get a win here."
Toronto defenseman Roman Polak opened the scoring nine minutes into the second period with a shot from the point that found its way past Dubnyk's shoulder. Staal answered with his first goal 56 seconds later when Charlie Coyle took a loose puck and spun around to find Staal streaking to the net for a breakaway.
Matthews, the rookie who debuted with a four-goal game last week, added a power-play goal for the Leafs. Jhonas Enroth made 24 saves in his Maple Leafs debut.
"I think we've played pretty well to be honest with you," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "I like the way we play. I like how quick we play. I'd like us to win the games we should win, but I think we've done a lot of good things. We're .500 after four and as we grow up here a little bit, we just got to hang in the hunt the best we possibly can because we're going to get better fast."
The Wild entered the game one of three teams yet to allow a power-play goal this season. The penalty kill reached a perfect 12 for 12 before Matthews' tally. Minnesota was 27th in the NHL last season in penalty kill at 77.9 percent a year after leading the league at 86.3 percent.
NOTES: Polak replaced D Martin Marincin, who missed the game with a lower-body injury. ... Wild D Marco Scandella was scratched before the game with an illness. Matt Dumba took his spot in the lineup after he was a minus-2 in the first three games. ... Minnesota was 5-25-6 last season when giving up the first goal. ... Coyle has a point in every game this season. ... Kadri reached 200 career points with his assist.
Maple Leafs: Finish their road trip on Saturday at Chicago.
Wild: Begin a four-game road trip on Saturday at New Jersey.