STOCKHOLM – William Nylander was the star attraction all week on home soil.
From autograph signings to television appearances, the stylish Swede owned centre stage.
He also fittingly tied a bow on the NHL Global Series.
The red-hot Nylander scored at 3:09 of overtime Sunday as the Toronto Maple Leafs survived a blown 3-1 lead in the third period to down the Minnesota Wild 4-3 and secure their fourth straight win.
The winger wove into the offensive zone with the teams playing 3-on-3 before burying his 12th goal of the season past Marc-Andre Fleury.
“Would prefer we didn’t get to the overtime,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “But if that’s what we had to do to have a finish like that we’ll take it.”
Nylander — the first European to score an NHL overtime goal in his home country — also picked up an assist in regulation to extend his franchise-record point streak to start a season to 17 games.
“It’s been weird,” he said of playing in his backyard with the Leafs. “Walking around with my buddies and the next day go play an NHL game.
“It’s been weird, but it’s been lots of fun.”
The 27-year-old pending unrestricted free agent, poised to cash in whenever he signs his next contract, registered five points in two games at Avicii Arena and has six goals and five assists over his last five contests.
Nylander sits tied for fourth in the NHL scoring with 12 goals and 27 points in 17 games.
“About as good as it gets for him,” Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly, who had a goal and two assists Sunday, said of his teammate’s week.
“So happy for him.”
Auston Matthews also had a goal and an assist for Toronto (10-5-2) in an afternoon Stockholm tilt that had North American fans tuning over breakfast with the 8 a.m. ET puck drop. Matthew Knies provided the rest of the offence for the Leafs.
Mitch Marner set up two goals to become the fastest Toronto player to reach 400 career assists. Joseph Woll made 33 saves.
Mats Zuccarello, with a goal and an assist, Jon Merrill and Jake Middleton replied for Minnesota (5-8-4). Fleury stopped 21 shots as the Wild dropped their fifth straight contest — and second in less than 24 hours.
“Liked our game,” Minnesota forward Marcus Foligno said. “I thought we were more in the positives than they were … got to like the way we came to work.”
Toronto erased a two-goal deficit in Friday’s third period to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on the back of Nylander’s three-point performance, while Minnesota led Ottawa 1-0 through 40 minutes before falling 2-1 to the Senators in a shootout Saturday for their first point in four games (0-3-1).
Ottawa beat Detroit 5-4 in overtime Thursday to kick off the Global Series.
“One of those trips where you really come together as a team,” said Matthews, who has 11 goals in 12 career games against Minnesota. “Great week and a lot of fun.”
The Wild went ahead 1-0 at 2:37 of Sunday’s opening period when Merrill’s shot from distance fooled Woll for the defenceman’s first goal in 49 games.
Leafs captain John Tavares then rattled the crossbar and Matthews hit the post on a power play.
Toronto got another man advantage and tied things when Matthews, who scored three times in against Minnesota in a 7-4 victory Oct. 14, but was without a point in his last three games, deposited a Nylander rebound for his 14th of the campaign at 12:43 against the NHL’s 32nd-ranked penalty kill.
Knies put the Leafs ahead with 1:23 left in the period when he one-timed his fifth past Fleury, who allowed eight goals in an 8-3 home loss to the Dallas Stars on Nov. 12, off a Marner feed.
The Leafs appeared to be in full control when Rielly made it 3-1 at 4:22 of the third on a shot that hit Middleton in front for his third.
But Middleton replied at 6:10 with his third before Zuccarello scored his fifth to tie it 3-3 and set the stage for Nylander to pen the final chapter of the Leafs’ Swedish sojourn.
“We all love Willie,” Matthews said. “He’s a special guy, a special player.
“A trip that we’re all going to remember.”
Marner’s 400 assists in 524 games makes him by far the fastest player to reach the milestone in franchise history. The previous mark was held by Leafs legend and Swedish hockey icon Borje Salming, who needed 600 contests.
FLEURY INCHING CLOSER
The goaltender, who turns 39 on Nov. 28, remains four wins short of Patrick Roy’s 551 for second on the NHL’s all-time list. Fleury played two games in Stockholm with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008.
Toronto returns to action Friday in Chicago against the Blackhawks, while Minnesota visits the Colorado Avalanche.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2023.