ST. PAUL, Minn. — One time, maybe it’s an accident. Twice, maybe a fluke.
But three times?
At least Matt Murray got a good tongue lashing by the referee who was inside the end zone on all three occasions the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender knocked the net off its moorings Friday afternoon. But that dressing down didn’t do the Wild any good because that same ref didn’t once call Murray for a penalty.
However, after that third time, referee Justin St. Pierre did call upon Xcel Energy Center’s ice crew to drill a deeper hole into the ice so the pegs would fit more snugly. But, let’s be honest: The only way they would have been able to dig deep enough in this game to stop Murray’s antics would have been if they actually struck oil.
To say Wild coach Dean Evason was displeased over Murray’s net issues following the Wild’s post-Thanksgiving 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs is an understatement.
After all, Murray did the same stuff one game earlier in New Jersey.
Here’s the three instances today where Matt Murray had the net mysteriously dislodge on him from overhead (r @RussoHockey) pic.twitter.com/lap6pbIzhP
— CJ Fogler AKA Perc70 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) November 25, 2022
“(Goalie coach) Freddy Chabot said it’s a trend with that goaltender,” Evason said. “You can’t knock the net off three times and not get anything out of it. It doesn’t make any sense. We have offensive time in there and sustained time. We could get more opportunities and all of a sudden it stalled out and momentum’s gone. I don’t understand it. I don’t.
“It’s hard to ask them. You don’t want to yell at refs all the time, but it didn’t make any sense how a goaltender could knock it off three times and there’s no repercussion.”
Evason had every right to be upset.
In the second period, Calen Addison drove the net and was close to a backdoor tap-in when Murray mysteriously knocked the net off. In the third period, the newly assembled and appropriately named FEER Line — Marcus Foligno—Joel Eriksson Ek—Ryan Reaves — was buzzing during a 66-second shift when Murray shouldered the net off and drew a whistle so his gassed teammates could change.
Veteran — and illegal — move to everyone except St. Pierre and neutral-zone ref Graham Skilliter.
“I don’t know what was going on there,” Murray said of the nets coming off easily. “I use the net to push off all the time and, for whatever reason, tonight it just came off a little bit easier.”
The third time looked unintentional, but like the boy who cried wolf, how do you buy it after the first two?
Even Murray’s old Pittsburgh Penguins teammate and mentor, Marc-Andre Fleury, could only bring himself to say he didn’t think the third one was intentional but the second one “you could clearly see when it comes in, he pushes it.”
To add insult to injury, when Murray decided to keep the net on its moorings, he made the save of the game in the waning seconds by robbing Kirill Kaprizov of the tying goal with a sprawling save on Kaprizov’s eighth shot of the game.
Murray ROBS Kaprizov in the final seconds to seal the Leafs win pic.twitter.com/KlFFAxZ6rB
— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 25, 2022
“I got a bit fortunate with that one,” Murray said. “I was late getting across. I think (Kaprizov) just kind of missed his spot. He (shot) it right in the middle of the net. So if he hits his spot, it makes it a much harder save.”
Still, it was a heckuva save to deny the Wild the chance to extend their modest two-game win streak with three games left on this 2-2 homestand.
“Kirill, 99.9 percent of the time scores that goal,” Evason said. “Hits it hard. (Murray) makes a great save. Maybe influenced a little that (Greenway) was coming, (so) maybe (Kaprizov) pushed it a little bit. We had the looks. Everything was executed correctly … We definitely gave ourselves a chance at the end.”
Fleury, who confirmed he hit his head on the crossbar in Nashville on Nov. 15, played for the first time in 10 games and was rusty. He had won five of his previous eight starts before the injury with a 1.75 goals-against average and .937 save percentage, but Mitch Marner opened the scoring by extending his point streak to 15 games with a shot through traffic that brushed off Matt Dumba’s pants.
Kaprizov became the first Wild player in history with three career eight-game point streaks by tying the score on a power play with his 12th goal. But 42 seconds later, Fleury gave up what he called a “stupid goal” to Zach Aston-Reese.
That’s Fleury lingo for “soft.”
Quick response by Aston-Reese, and the @MapleLeafs reclaim the lead. ? pic.twitter.com/m40pK19KL3
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 25, 2022
Matt Boldy, who had recently gone eight straight games without a goal, scored in consecutive games off a perfect feed from Alex Goligoski, but Calle Järnkrok scored an easy one when Mark Giordano’s shot ricocheted right to Järnkrok off Goligoski with Fleury anticipating Giordano’s shot.
Matt Boldy. Tie ballgame #mnwild pic.twitter.com/GweMgBbUq1
— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) November 25, 2022
The Greenway—Freddy Gaudreau—Boldy line had a miserable time in their own zone all game. They were hemmed routinely in the Wild’s end and weak along the boards, the latter leading to the Järnkrok goal. Evason considered splitting them up but decided against it.
“I think that line will be fine,” he said. “I don’t know if it was after the first or after the second, we said we hadn’t got them out there a lot. Maybe that stalled them out a little bit. So we’ll take some responsibility there, of not keeping them flowing in the game. But they’ll be fine.”
Goligoski finished with two assists, but he and defense partner Matt Dumba were on for all four of Toronto’s goals. William Nylander scored after Goligoski’s reverse around the boards was picked off by Auston Matthews. Mats Zuccarello scored with 3:34 left when Kaprizov tied his career-long seven-game assist streak, but that would be all she wrote.
Mats Zuccarello. Wild within 1 #mnwild pic.twitter.com/6yDhTsKclk
— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) November 25, 2022
“We got to be better,” Goligoski said of him and Dumba. “Bounces happen, so don’t put yourself in those positions.”
Dumba’s usual defense partner, Jonas Brodin, missed his second straight game due to illness but is expected to play Sunday against Arizona. Does Goligoski come out of the lineup or go down to the third pair with Jon Merrill or Addison sitting?
Remember, Addison was supposed to be scratched against Winnipeg to keep Goligoski in the lineup but wound up playing because of Brodin’s absence. Addison scored that game and it was his disruption of a possible Marner shorthanded breakaway that led to Kaprizov’s power-play goal Friday.
It’ll be interesting what Evason decides.
It’ll also be interesting to see if Marco Rossi stays around or is assigned to Iowa on Saturday. He was scratched for a third game in a row and only skated in warmup as insurance in case one of the Wild’s under the weather or banged up forwards couldn’t play. If illness is still an issue, the Wild may want to keep Rossi or flip him with another forward to get the rookie playing. GM Bill Guerin said Wednesday the Wild were considering sending him down.
Evason said the one negative from his eyes was not getting enough shots through. Toronto, missing three defensemen, blocked 22 shots, so the Wild’s five-on-five scoring continues to be a problem. They have just 31 five-on-five goals, tied for 28th in the NHL.
Skating his first game in a #mnwild sweater, forward Ryan Reaves discusses the first period with @Gorgamatic21 on @BallySportsNOR. pic.twitter.com/1pdazo6LU9
— Minnesota Wild PR (@mnwildPR) November 25, 2022
As for Reaves, after only playing once since Nov. 3, it took him a bit to get his legs under him but ultimately settled in nicely with Eriksson Ek and Foligno. That line did a good job against Matthews’ line and Reaves finished with one shot, three others attempted, four hits and a penalty in 12 minutes of ice time. He said it was nice getting cheered in a building he normally hears jeers in.
“Playing with Ekker and Moose is right up my alley,” Reaves said. “They’re guys that kind of fly into the O-zone and hunt bodies … Wherever I’m playing, though, I just like that style of this team.”
Reaves said he has felt welcomed – Wild captain Jared Spurgeon and his wife, Danielle, invited Reaves and several teammates and their home for Thanksgiving dinner — and Foligno, who got into an opening night scrap with Reaves, texted him right away.
“He texted me and said we’d be meeting on better terms. I said it was never bad terms. It was just business,” Reaves said. “I’ve heard good things about him throughout my career. I’m sure we’re going to be good friends … I’ve always had respect for him. He plays hard. He plays the right way. He doesn’t do anything dirty. He sticks up for his teammates. He answers the bell when he has to. That’s a guy I’ve always respected. No hard feelings.”
But he doesn’t plan to delete Star Tribune Aaron Lavinsky’s photo of him punching Foligno off his Instagram. After all, Snoop Dogg even commented on it.
“It’s the background on my computer. It’s on my Instagram. Somebody approached me to print some shirts,” Reaves said. “We’re going to have to make a new photo. I don’t think we’re going to be printing that one.”
(Top photo of Matt Murray and Connor Dewar: David Berding / Getty Images)