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Nylander scores in OT to send Maple Leafs past Wild

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TORONTO — William Nylander lost the puck before quickly stealing it back.

Then his eyes lit up.

Wild forward Matt Boldy was the only skater standing in the way of a game-clinching moment in Friday’s extra period.

The Maple Leafs winger didn’t miss.

Nylander stripped Frederick Gaudreau before dangling around Boldy and outwaiting Filip Gustavsson on a jaw-dropping individual effort at 1:05 of overtime as Toronto defeated Minnesota 2-1.

“I knew there was a forward there,” Nylander said after bagging his 33rd goal of the season. “Just tried to take it to the net. I saw that he was kind of flat-footed.

“It was gonna be hard if I came with some speed.”

Impossible, it turns out, on a night with little action at either end until the decisive sequence.

“Our forwards have that quality — they can strip guys of pucks,” Leafs defenceman Mark Giordano said of Nylander’s thievery. “Willie’s one of the best in the league at it. You’re never safe around him when he’s behind you like that. Then the play, the move to the net, was pretty incredible.

“Nice one to see from the bench.”

David Kampf had the other goal for Toronto (36-15-8), which got 24 saves from Ilya Samsonov. Nylander added an assist to cement his second consecutive 70-point campaign.

“No surprise for me right now,” Samosonov said of his talented teammate’s numbers. “He scores all the time … I’m so happy (to) play with these guys.”

The Leafs improved to 6-8 in OT in 2022-23 after starting an ugly 1-6. That forced head coach Sheldon Keefe to tweak his approach in 3-on-3 by putting a defensive forward out to take the initial faceoff.

Toronto lost Friday’s draw against Minnesota, but got the puck back and was able to change against some tired legs on the other side.

Nylander jumped into the action and did the rest.

“Overtime was an issue for us,” Keefe said. “We changed our strategy a little bit in terms of how we started, how we deploy the guys. The luck has gone our way a little bit in terms of getting us more time with the puck.

“It’s given more opportunities for players like Will to make plays like that.”

Brandon Duhaime replied for Minnesota (32-21-6). Gustavsson made 22 stops as the Wild saw their four-game winning streak snapped after beating Columbus 2-0 on Thursday.

“Absolutely everything,” Minnesota head coach Dean Evason said when asked what he liked about his team’s performance against a rested, high-powered roster. “We liked everything about our game tonight — except missing one point.”

The Leafs, who are set to head out on a five-game road trip that includes their annual swing through Western Canada, won’t play again at Scotiabank Arena until March 11.

“We’re going to be in a lot of those games down the stretch and in the playoffs,” Giordano said of Friday’s razor-thin margin. “You gotta take what’s there and not force it, not get frustrated.”

The third organization involved in last week’s three-team trade that saw the Leafs acquire forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from St. Louis, the Wild opened the scoring in the first period on a strange sequence that saw Duhaime’s centring pass go off Toronto’s Calle Jarnkrok and sneak by Samsonov for his seventh.

The Leafs responded before the period was out when Kampf scored his sixth from in tight off a Nylander setup.

Playing their first game against an opponent in a post-season spot at the start of play since Feb. 1 against Boston, the Leafs got a power play in the second, but were unable to find a way past Gustavsson, whose only other appearance against Toronto came in May 2021 in a 4-3 overtime victory when he was with Ottawa.

The Leafs’ fifth-ranked man advantage got another opportunity with under eight minutes left in the third, but the Minnesota goaltender was equal to a Nylander one-timer.

The Wild went to their first power play with less than four minutes remaining in regulation only to have Samsonov and Toronto’s penalty killers hold firm to force OT.

“Patience is huge,” said Nylander, whose three OT goals this season are tied for the league lead. “We’re 1-1 through 60 minutes. We don’t want to worry and try to force plays.

“We’ll grind them out.”

And then on nights like Friday, win it on a breathtaking moment late.

BLOCK PARTY

Giordano entered play three blocked shots short of Kris Russell’s NHL record of 2,044.

The 39-year-old was credited with three through 40 minutes against the Wild, but will have to wait a little longer to set the new mark in a category the NHL only started tracking consistently in 2005-06.

“Something I’ve done all my career,” Giordano said of putting his body on the line. “I play a lot of penalty kill, so you’re gonna be in those positions.”

COOKIE MONSTER

Acciari shared the story this week about how he got the “Cookie” nickname from Florida teammate Keith Yandle.

“There were no cookies at pre-game meal,” said the Johnston, R.I., product. “I didn’t throw a fit, but was a little upset.

“Keith helped me get that in the pre-game meals.”

So what’s the cookie situation in Toronto?

“Very good,” Acciari said with a smile. “Very happy with them.”

UP NEXT

Leafs: Visit Seattle on Sunday.

Wild: Host Columbus on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2023.

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Juan Brunetta has a goal and an assist to lead Liga MX All-Stars over MLS All-Stars 4-1

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Juan Brunetta and Maximiliano Meza scored a minute apart in the second half, and Mexico’s Liga MX All-Stars beat the Major League Soccer All-Stars 4-1 in the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday night.

Brunetta (Tigres) scored in transition in the 68th minute to make it 3-1 and set up Meza (Monterrey) soon after in front of a record crowd of 20,931 at Lower.com Field.

It was the first MLS All-Star Game victory for Liga MX in three tries. The MLS All-Stars won in 2022 and won on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw a year earlier.

“It was an incredible game,” Liga MX coach Andre Jardine said. “There were a lot of high-level players. It was a tight game. Both teams definitely came out to play. In the second half they came out with a lot of great names as well. I was a bit surprised. It was a bit difficult, especially in the first 15 minutes, but we had to adjust and ultimately it was a great game.”

There were plenty of big names on the field, but the absence of the brightest and biggest one took some luster out of the event. The league announced Monday that Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi was unable to play because of ligament damage in his right ankle.

The 2022 World Cup champion was injured while playing for Argentina in its victory over Colombia in the Copa America final on July 14.

Fans cheered when Columbus forwards combined to tie the match 1-all in the 17th minute, about a minute after Germán Berterame (Monterrey) scored for Mexico on a header.

From the left flank, Diego Rossi found Crew teammate Cucho Hernandez racing unmarked down the middle of the box for the equalizer.

“Unbelievable for me to score in front of my home fans,” Hernandez said.

Oussama Idrissi (Pachuca) made it 2-1 in the 41st with a strike from the top of the penalty area.

MLS had two chances to tie it in the 63rd when Riqui Puig (Los Angeles Galaxy) hit the crossbar and on the follow, Luca Orellano (Cincinnati) was denied on a goal-line clearance by Unai Bilbao (Tijuana).

Minutes later, Liga MX put the game out of reach.

MLS recognized the revival of the Columbus market by awarding it the All-Star Game. The Crew, a 1996 charter member, were threatened in the fall of 2017 with relocation to Austin, Texas, by then-owner Anthony Precourt.

A grassroots movement called Save the Crew drew international attention and helped persuade Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam to buy the team and keep it in Columbus.

The Crew won the MLS Cup in 2020 and 2023, reached the final of the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup and opened Lower.com Field in 2021, where there have been 28 straight sellouts for MLS matches.

“It shows everyone the courage of the owner,” Crew and MLS All-Stars coach Wilfried Nancy said. “Listen, this is a representation of what Columbus is and the passion for the soccer.”

The All-Star squad had five Crew players. Hernandez and Rossi were joined by midfielder Darlington Nagbe and defenders Rudy Camacho and Steven Moreira.

UP NEXT

MLS and Liga MX continue the rivalry with the start of the Leagues Cup on Friday All 47 teams will compete in a World Cup-style format, with the championship match on Aug. 25. There will be 77 matches in the United States and Canada. Inter Miami is the defending Leagues Cup champion.

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AP soccer:

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Chelsea salvages 2-2 tie with Wrexham in friendly at Levi’s Stadium

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Lesley Ugochukwu scored in the 82nd minute to help Chelsea salvage a 2-2 tie with Wrexham in a friendly match Wednesday night at Levi’s Stadium.

Ugochukwu rolled a shot from the middle of the box through traffic into the right corner.

Wrexham took a 2-1 lead when Jack Marriot scored on a counterattack in the 72nd minute.

Luke Bolton also scored for Wrexham, the Welsh team co-owned by Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds that was promoted this year to the third tier of English soccer.

Christopher Nkunku scored first for Chelsea in the perennial Premier League power’s first pre-season match and its first under manager, Enzo Maresca, the former Leicester City manager.

Nkunku fired a shot from the middle of the box into the left corner of the net past goalie Arthur Okonkwo in the 35th minute off an assist from Marc Guiu after a corner kick.

Wrexham tied it in the 58th minute when Bolton scored from the right wing off an assist from Sebastian Revan, who connected with Bolton on a crossing pass.

Chelsea goalkeeper Robert Sanchez blocked a breakaway shot from James McLean in the 29th minute.

Chelsea beat Wrexham 5-0 in a friendly last season.

UP NEXT

Wrexham: Visits the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.

Chelsea: Plays the Celtic on Saturday at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

AP soccer:

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Preseason Opener: Enzo Maresca’s Chelsea Takes on Wrexham

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Welcome to the first match of the summer, the first preseason game, and the first chance to see Enzo Maresca’s Chelsea in action. While the main focus today is on fitness, this game will undoubtedly spark analysis and excitement among fans.

Football, sort of, is back! Let’s see how the teams line up for this highly anticipated friendly.

Chelsea Starting XI:

  • Sánchez
  • James (c)
  • Tosin
  • Badiashile
  • Colwill
  • Lavia
  • Chukwuemeka
  • Nkunku
  • Madueke
  • Guiu
  • George

Substitutes:

  • Beach
  • Bergström
  • W. Fofana
  • Veiga
  • Acheampong
  • Gusto
  • Chilwell
  • Santos
  • Ugochukwu
  • Sterling
  • Ângelo
  • Broja

Wrexham Starting XI:

  • Okonkwo
  • Cleworth
  • Brunt
  • O’Connor
  • Bolton
  • Jones
  • Dobson
  • Lee
  • Revan
  • Palmer
  • McClean (c)

Substitutes:

  • Howard
  • Burton
  • Boyle
  • Barnett
  • James
  • Forde
  • Evans
  • Ashfield
  • Cannon
  • Davies
  • Bickerstaff
  • Waters
  • Dalby
  • Marriott

Match Details:

  • Date / Time: Wednesday, July 24, 7pm PDT; 3am BST (next day); 7:30am IST (next day)
  • Venue: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA, USA
  • On TV: ESPN (USA); none (UK); elsewhere
  • Streaming: ESPN+ (USA); Chelsea TV (int’l pay-per-view)

Both teams will be eager to test their tactics and players ahead of the upcoming season. Chelsea fans are particularly excited to see how new manager Enzo Maresca will shape the team, while Wrexham supporters are keen to see their team perform against top-tier opposition.

Let’s see how the starting formation and tactics unfold as we get a first glimpse of what’s to come this season. Stay tuned for an exciting game!ea

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