Nylander Show drives Maple Leafs to comeback win against Detroit in Sweden

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A few nights after attending the premiere of the Borje Salming documentary in Stockholm, William Nylander put on his own show on Friday at Avicii Arena.

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Playing in front of his family, including his grandmother for the first time in the National Hockey League, Nylander extended his franchise-record point streak to start a season in style. 

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Nylander had a goal and two assists in the third period, spearheading a Leafs comeback that resulted in a 3-2 Toronto victory against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Leafs didn’t look good through 40 minutes, registering just 14 shots on Wings goalie Alex Lyon, whose teammates built a 2-0 lead. 

That changed in the third, when the Leafs, who had not played since Saturday when they beat Vancouver at home, found an extra step that was elusive in the first two periods. 

Why the urgency wasn’t there for the Leafs off the opening faceoff is something coach Sheldon Keefe will have to address. There was no excuse for that, considering the Leafs had plenty of time to adjust after travelling to Sweden on Monday night.

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The video from the final period, however, will show a hungry group that knows it’s able to turn it on when it must.

On Friday, it was Nylander, who was named the first star, as well as linemates John Tavares and Tyler Bertuzzi that drove the Leafs. Tavares also had a goal and two assists, while Bertuzzi had one and one. 

This was all about Nylander. He didn’t have a shot on goal through two periods, but went to another level in the third and finished with four shots and nine attempts. 

Nylander doesn’t wilt under pressure no matter where he is playing or the circumstances, and it certainly wasn’t going to happen on his home soil. As for feeling the heat in a contract year? Not a chance.

An assist on Bertuzzi’s fourth goal as a Leaf got Toronto going. Nylander, as he has done so often, took control of the puck in the offensive zone, left the Wings’ Andrew Copp in his wake and burst toward the net. Bertuzzi, stationed in front, had an easy tap-in when Nylander found him at 3:50.

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Nylander tied the game at 13:03 during a Leafs power play on a one-timer, connecting quickly on a pass from Mitch Marner. 

Bertuzzi, after beating ex-Leaf Justin Holl behind the Wings net, set up Tavares for the winner at 14:27.

The Leafs, who play their second game of the Global Series against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday before heading home, have won four of their past five games after losing four in a row.

A point against Minnesota would make Nylander just the second active player, along with Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid in 2021-22, to start a season with a point in 17 consecutive games. 

Nylander now has 25 points. Only three Vancouver Canucks — J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, all with 27 points — have more in the NHL. 

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WINGIN’ IT

A bizarre sequence — or sequences — resulted in a 1-0 Detroit lead at 12:52 of the second period. Daniel Sprong scored the first goal on a penalty shot, but more on that in a minute.

The Leafs thought they had a 1-0 lead to themselves when a Marner shot appeared to cross the goal line just 22 seconds before the Sprong goal. 

As Marner’s shot was headed toward the net, Wings defenceman Jake Walman fell and dislodged the net from its moorings. The puck seemed to crossed the line, but without the net in place, it wasn’t readily obvious that it was a goal. 

A lengthy review involving referees Kyle Rehman and Kendrick Nicholson resulted in the decision that there was no conclusive evidence to confirm the puck crossed the goal line between the normal position of the goal posts. That was the official word from the NHL via email. 

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Before the Leafs could shake off their disappointment, Morgan Rielly briefly put his left glove over the puck in the Toronto crease, leading to the call for a penalty shot. Sprong, a former teammate of Leafs goalie Ilya Samsonov with the Washington Capitals, deked to his forehand to score.

Lucas Raymond scored less than two minutes later, giving the Wings a 2-0 lead when his shot from a sharp angle dipped under Samsonov’s glove and in. 

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LOOSE LEAFS

It sounded like a despondent John Klingberg who spoke to reporters after he took part in the morning skate on Friday. The veteran defenceman is working his way back from an undisclosed injury and acknowledged he dealt with some pain as he skated on Friday. “It has always been there throughout my career, but I’ve been able to deal with it and work through it,” Klingberg said. “It kind of hit rock bottom these last few weeks. It’s just disappointing that I can’t play. That we’re back home in Sweden, it kind of doesn’t really matter. It’s big for us to be here as a Swede in Sweden and play, but if I would be in Toronto or on the road, it’s still disappointing that you can’t play.” Whether Klingberg’s issue is related the double hip surgery he had in 2014 is not clear … A couple of nice touches: Mats Sundin was welcomed into the Leafs dressing room by Keefe to read the starting lineup, telling the players “to keep doing what you’re doing,” and Anders Salming, the son of Borje Salming dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff between Nylander and Raymond.

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