Maple Leafs blank Wild
By Dave Campbell, AP Sports Writer
ST. PAUL -- Joffrey Lupul and Mikhail Grabovski each scored goals to get Toronto's top two lines going and lead the Maple Leafs to a 3-0 victory on Tuesday over Minnesota, stretching the Wild's winless streak to seven games.
Rookie goalie James Reimer posted his third career shutout and won his third straight start, improving to 7-0-1 in his last eight road games and helping Toronto keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
The 10th-place Maple Leafs, the NHL's second-youngest team, are a long shot with eight games to go and eighth-place Buffalo still five points ahead. But they passed last year's points total and raised their record after the All-Star break to 14-6-5, a sign of progress for general manager Brian Burke's group.
Carl Gunnarsson added a goal early in the third period for the Leafs.
Grabovski's line -- including Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur -- and Lupul's line -- Tyler Bozak is the center between him and former Minnesota Gopher Phil Kessel -- have been quiet lately. In Toronto's previous four games, the top-six forwards contributed only two goals combined.
Just 99 seconds into the game, Lupul charged up the left wing and let a shot fly from the left circle that eluded Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom with defenseman Brent Burns late to cover. The roar from the Leafs fans in the crowd was as loud as a cheer for the home team, a deflating start for a Wild squad coming off the franchise's worst defeat ever -- 8-1 to Montreal on Sunday.
The Wild have given up the game's first goal in each of the last seven games, during which they managed only an overtime loss to Columbus on Saturday while freefalling out of the Western Conference race.
The Wild outshot the Maple Leafs 29-17, but Reimer wouldn't budge. Center John Madden found himself on two short-handed breakaways, once on a 3-on-5 situation in the second period, but his shots were kicked aside both times. Chuck Kobasew also had a one-on-one foiled by the unflappable rookie.
Grabovski's fadeaway shot from the slot midway through the middle frame made it 2-0, and Gunnarsson went top shelf over Backstrom, too, for his clincher.
The Wild matched their third-longest winless streak in history; the last came seven years ago. The record is 12, in their inaugural season.
Burns and his fellow All-Star Martin Havlat have been nonexistent during the skid, with just one assist apiece over their last seven games.
NOTES: Reimer is 11-3-4 in his last 18 decisions. ... The Wild have been outscored 12-2 in the first period of their last seven games. During their seven-game streak, they've been outscored 31-9.