Auston Matthews has 2 goals to take NHL lead, Maple Leafs beat Wild

Matthews thought about Rodion Amirov, the Toronto prospect diagnosed with a brain tumor.

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“Rodion, our hearts and thoughts are with you,” Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner said unprompted in his opening postgame remarks. “We hope you get through this. We’re beside you and with you.”

Before their morning skate, the Maple Leafs assembled for a stick salute as part of a video message for Amirov, their 2020 first-round draft choice. The 20-year-old Amirov is undergoing treatment in Germany after his KHL season was cut short to 10 games.

“It’s obviously a difficult thing to be going through,” Toronto captain John Tavares said. “But he’s in good spirits, fighting hard. We believe in him, and he’s a big part of our family here. He has tremendous talent and potential, but as a human being, we know he’s very motivated to beat this.”

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) controls the puck to the side of Minnesota Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen as Wild center Frederick Gaudreau (89) defends during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Toronto. 

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) controls the puck to the side of Minnesota Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen as Wild center Frederick Gaudreau (89) defends during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Toronto.  (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Matthews broke a tie midway through the third period. He stripped Wild fourth-line right wing Brandon Duhaime of the puck outside the Minnesota blue line and turned the other way for a give-and-go goal with Mitch Marner.

Matthew moved a goal ahead of Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl for the NHL lead.

Alex Kerfoot added an empty-netter in the final minute.

Petr Mrazek made 29 saves for Toronto. He was given the start over the struggling Jack Campbell.

“Every game is important, especially after not winning the last three games,” Mrazek said. “So, being patient in this game was a big factor, and I think we waited for the right moment and great play by Matthews on the blue line there and finished it.”

Frederick Gaudreau opened the scoring for Minnesota midway through the second, and Matthews tied it 27 seconds later.

Kappo Kahkonen stopped 22 shots for the Wild.

UP NEXT

Wild: At Calgary on Saturday night.

Maple Leafs: At Detroit on Saturday night.

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