Phil Kessel scored his team leading 25th goal and Joffrey Lupul picked up three assists to help the Toronto Maple Leafs end a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. Nazem Kadri, Joey Crabb and Mikhail Grabovski also had goals for Toronto, which avoided its first four game losing streak since last season. That was more than enough offense for Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson, whose shutout bid ended when Nick Johnson scored with under 3 minutes remaining. Gustavsson finished with 20 saves.
The Wild, ravaged by injuries to captain Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse, fell to 2-10-3 since Dec. 17, when they were on top the NHL standings. With Toronto mired in a 3 game losing streak, coach Ron Wilson decided to split up Kessel and Lupul for the first time this season and the line change paid off immediately when Kadri opened the scoring just 50 seconds into the game. A healthy scratch for Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Ottawa, Kadri was inserted into the lineup alongside Lupul and Tim Connolly and got his fourth goal of the season with a pretty spin-o-rama backhander off a rebound. Crabb quickly extended the lead with an amazing solo effort at 5:11 to extend the lead to 2-0.
Like Wilson, Wild coach Mike Yeo has been juggling his lineup to try and get more out of his players. Yeo surprised a lot of people including fans by having Warren Peters center the top line between Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. That line generated the best early chance against Gustavsson, who calmly gloved Heatley's one-timer midway through the second period. He also kicked out a pad to deny the big winger in the third.
Kessel was placed on a line with Tyler Bozak and Matthew Lombardi and scored a power-play goal with Lupul on the ice. He knocked a rebound past Niklas Backstrom with 4:12 to go in the second to extending the lead to 3-0. Grabovski made it a four-goal game early in the third after the puck found the net off his skate. With the win the Toronto Maple Leafs improve their record to 23-18-5.