WINGS 5, LEAFS 4 (OT)

Penticton Herald - - SCOREBOARD -

TORONTO — Maple Leafs head Mike Bab­cock ex­pected Wil­liam Ny­lan­der to be “the fresh­est guy in hockey” on Thurs­day night.

That was prob­a­bly ask­ing too much of a player mak­ing his sea­son de­but with zero prac­tice time since end­ing a pro­longed con­tract im­passe with Toronto just last week­end.

The rest of Bab­cock’s team, which even­tu­ally showed signs of life af­ter a lack­lus­tre open­ing 40 min­utes, didn’t re­ally have an ex­cuse.

Dy­lan Larkin scored at 2:48 of over­time as the Detroit Red Wings sur­vived a blown three-goal lead in the third pe­riod to down the Leafs 5-4 and snap Toronto’s five-game win­ning streak.

“They were just bet­ter than us,” Bab­cock said. “They played harder.”

Ny­lan­der agreed to a six-year, US$45-mil­lion deal min­utes be­fore Satur­day’s dead­line for the re­stricted free agent to be el­i­gi­ble to play in the NHL this sea­son.

He flew to Toronto on Sun­day from Swe­den, where he had been prac­tis­ing with a junior team, twice went through drills with a Leafs as­sis­tant coach and took part in Thurs­day’s brief morn­ing skate.

Com­ing off con­sec­u­tive 61-point sea­sons, the 22-year-old fin­ished with 12 min­utes 29 sec­onds of ice-time, but didn’t see any ac­tion in the game’s fi­nal 14:35.

“It has noth­ing to do with Willy, it has to do with me and try­ing to win the game,” Bab­cock said of the bench­ing. “Any time you’ve missed that amount of hockey, it’s go­ing to be hard.”

Ny­lan­der, who got a mostly warm re­cep­tion when he stepped on the ice for his first shift, started on a line with Aus­ton Matthews and Pa­trick Mar­leau be­fore sit­ting.

“It felt OK,” Ny­lan­der said. “There’s a lot of dif­fer­ences from prac­tis­ing by your­self.”

In over­time, Larkin moved in on a break­away and beat Gar­ret Sparks on a deke.

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