Wild land seventh straight win over Leafs

Mike Babcock would rather not glance at the NHL standing, and who can blame him.Despite the obvious strides his youthful Toronto Maple Leafs have made this season – they’re almost watchable on a regular basis, after all – the coach couldn’t help but notice that his team is bringing up the rear in the Eastern Conference standing. If we get six in every five games segment we’re absolutely perfect.“What I’ve found over the years, whether we were winning 50 games in Detroit or whether we’re here in Toronto, if you just stay focused on what you’re doing, things work out in the end.”That was not the case Wednesday night where the Leafs did not play all that poorly.But it seemed every time they made a defensive miscue, the Wild were there to pounce and it resulted in a 3-2 Minnesota victory.For Minnesota, who remains very much in the playoff picture in the Western Conference, it marked its seventh consecutive victory over Toronto.“We’ve done lots of good things, really good things,” Babcock said afterward. If his team tallies six points over that segment, all is well, standings be damned.It’s sort of like being on a diet and opting to eat just a quarter of a chocolate bar.And so, heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild at the Air Canada Centre, Babcock was asked for his thoughts about being a game above .500 and still mired in last place in the Eastern Conference standing.It was subject that Babcock preferred not to address.“We’ve got one game left in this five-game segment,” said the coach, his soap box not yet beginning to strain. I get greedy and I want to be better. They have timely saves and the definitely got that tonight.”The game marked the first at home for the Leafs following what was, for them, a reasonable three-game western road swing in which they earned a win, a loss and then an overtime loss in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver respectively.The Leafs dominated play in the opening moments of the first period on Wednesday but it was Minnesota that jumped in front 2-0 on goals by Jason Zucker and Chris Stewart on a breakaway at the 14:22 mark.The Leafs got one back before the period’s end on a goal by Ben Smith, who banged home a big rebound kicked out by Dubnyk.Minnesota restored its two-goal lead after just 90 seconds of the second period when Eric Staal banged home a backhand while stationed on the doorstop of Toronto goaltender Frederik Anderson.Anderson later made a great pad save to rob Mikko Koivu that would have put Minnesota ahead by three.That save loomed large when, moments later, Tyler Bozak neatly stepped around Matt Dumba in the slot and then launched a backhand over Dubnyk’s glove into the top corner of the net for a pretty goal that cut Minnesota’s lead to 3-2.Toronto next plays on Saturday in Boston against the Bruins where Babcock’s five-game rating system starts anew, along with his dreams.“If you get six in every five games you get in the playoffs, period,” Babcock said. And that’s never a good look.So instead of looking at the season as a whole, Babcock has instead chosen to divide the campaign into five-game digestible bits. So we got to be better, that’s the reality of the situation.”Jason Zucker, Chris Stewart and Eric Staal scored for the Wild.Ben Smith and Tyler Bozak replied for the Leafs.The game provided decent entertainment where the Wild would carry a tenuous 3-2 lead into the third period which is usually money in the bank for Minnesota with Devan Dubnyk guarding the crease.Dubnyk came into the contest leading the NHL with a sparkling 1.63 goals against average and a stingy .946 save percentage.The Leafs, smelling blood against a Minnesota team on the end of a five-game road trip, carried the play after that and would come close to squaring things but Dubnyk held strong.Toronto would outshoot Minnesota 37-20 in the game and 17-3 in the third period alone but were continually stonewalled by Dubnyk.First it was a loose puck in front after a point shot from Jake Gardiner that the Leafs failed to corral.William Nylander was a constant threat and Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri just failed to click on a dangerous two-on-one rush.Finally, in desperation, Babcock pulled his goalie with about two minutes left to play and Connor Brown directed a shot from close in that Dubnyk got a toe on.“It seemed like the whole third period was like that really – tons of Grade A opportunities, lots on the power plays,” Kadri said. “He’s a good goaltender, that’s what good teams do. “If we win tonight, we’ve got seven points. You want to be better.“We look like we got a bunch of kids, they’re good little players. We got to find a way to win every night. “But I’m no different than you people or the fans.