Minnesota Wild defeat Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in a rare afternoon game

Michael Hutchinson was introduced to his head coach and teammates a few hours before making his Leafs’ debut.

With No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen and backup Garret Sparks out injured. The 28-year-old from nearby Barrie, Ont., got a big cheer from the crowd when he was introduced. He made some nice saves and even watched Toronto jump out to an early lead.

There would, however, be no storybook ending Thursday.

Zach Parise scored the winner. While Devan Dubnyk made 38 saves as the Minnesota Wild fought back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to beat the Leafs 4-3 in a rare weekday afternoon game.

Acquired from the Florida Panthers on Saturday to provide the organization some goaltending depth, Hutchinson was recalled from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies on an emergency basis with both Andersen (groin) and Sparks (concussion protocol) ruled out.

“It was a little bit hectic. I found out last night,” said Hutchinson, who made 30 saves, including 18 in the first period. “Things moved pretty fast.”

Andersen is on injured reserve. While Sparks, who took a shot up high in Wednesday’s practice after starting Toronto’s last three games, sat out for precautionary reasons. Kasimir Kaskisuo was also recalled from the Marlies to serve as Hutchinson’s backup against Minnesota.

Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said Andersen skated on Thursday. But the status of both NHL netminders remains up in the air. This means that Hutchinson could get the call again on Saturday when Toronto hosts the Vancouver Canucks.

“You get traded here and hope you get a chance to play for the Leafs. Growing up just north of here,” said Hutchinson, who cost Toronto a 2020 fifth-round draft pick. “It was really exciting to get my first game under me. But it also makes you hungry to get more and to get the first win and go from there.”

Jared Spurgeon got a goal and two assists. Charlie Coyle also scored a goal and gained an assist. While Mikko Koivu provided the rest of the offense for Minnesota.

“We kept pushing even when they got the 3-2 (lead),” said Dubnyk, who was named to his third all-star game Wednesday. “We just stuck with it.”

The Wild came in 1-5-1 over their last seven. With just 10 goals over that snap.

Mitch Marner, with two inside the game’s first six minutes and William Nylander had the goals for Toronto (26-12-2).

John Tavares added two assists as the Leafs dropped their second straight game following Saturday’s listless 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders that snapped a five-game winning streak.

“We scored twice in the first period. I didn’t like our first period,” Babcock said. “They were better than us.

“After that, I liked our game a lot.”

The 2 p.m. ET matchup was dubbed by the Leafs as their “Next Generation Game”. It was aimed at celebrating youth and encouraging the next generation of hockey fans.

Parise took advantage of a turnover by one of Toronto’s young stars, Auston Matthews, at 4:21 of the third and beat Hutchinson upstairs for his 18th to give Minnesota its first lead.

Toronto got two power plays after the Wild pushed ahead. Matthews hit the post on the Leafs’ best chance but wound up 0 for 5 with the man advantage.

“You’ve got to learn how to win all kinds of games,” Babcock said. “They’re a veteran team, they make it hard on you.”

The stands at Scotiabank Arena were dotted by significantly more kids than usual for the matinee start that included a flashy opening ceremony with children dressed up as players, referees, and announcers.

There were even miniature versions of Babcock and famed commentator Don Cherry.

Peace,

Burke

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