TORONTO – Lapses by the Wild this season have come in spurts.
There was the three-goal outburst by the Penguins in 2 minutes, 28 seconds, back-to-back tallies by the Jets in 28 seconds and a pair by the Avalanche in 1:27. The Predators started the trend in the season opener with two in 1:29.
But the Wild’s latest letdown lasted much longer.
After muscling a one-goal lead to the first intermission, the team fell apart in the second period — a befuddling decline in which the Maple Leafs scored four times to pull away for a 4-2 mismatch Tuesday in front of 19,149 at Scotiabank Arena that dropped the Wild to 1-5.
In 18 periods, the Wild has been tagged for 25 goals.
“It gets frustrating when you get scored on three or four times in a short span,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You gotta be mentally tougher.”
Toronto’s premier players led the comeback: Defenseman Morgan Rielly racked up four assists, winger Mitch Marner scored a goal and set up two others, and center Auston Matthews registered his team-leading seventh goal.
The rally upstaged Wild winger Gerald Mayhew’s first career goal, which he buried with 1:02 to go in the third.
Mayhew became the eighth Wild player to score in his NHL debut.
“I’ve been thinking about that since I was about 5 years old,” Mayhew said. “It was a surreal moment for me today. [But] it’s not the way we wanted it to end.”
Leafs captain John Tavares started the second-period takeover at 1:58 when his shot sailed through traffic and over goalie Devan Dubnyk’s left shoulder.
During a power play later in the period, Marner’s shot trickled through Dubnyk’s five hole and rolled into the net at 7:17 to give Toronto a 2-1 edge.
The Wild was on the brink of getting a glorious chance to even the score when winger Ryan Donato skated into the Leafs’ zone on a breakaway, but the play was whistled down when winger Ryan Hartman was called for holding after he grabbed Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin behind the action and Muzzin fell to the ice.
“It was embarrassing on his part,” Hartman said. “I don’t have anything to say. He knows what happened.”
Boudreau acknowledged Muzzin should also have been penalized for embellishment, but he said there was “no need” for Hartman to even reach for Muzzin — the repercussions of which were stiff.
Only 10 seconds into the ensuing advantage, winger Andreas Johnsson batted in a puck that bounced off the glass behind the net and into the slot.
“They get the power play and make it 3-1, and they’re not looking back,” Boudreau said.
With 6:55 to go in the second, Matthews finished off a give-and-go with Marner to cap off the four-goal run in 11:07.
Toronto ended up going 2-for-3 on the power play, the Wild 0-for-3. Dubnyk totaled 30 saves, Frederik Andersen 27 for the Leafs.
Not only did the Wild’s drop-off in the second plummet the team into a hole it couldn’t climb out of, but it also prevented it from addressing another early-season issue and that’s building on a lead when the Wild gets one — like it did 5:30 into the first period, when winger Luke Kunin wired a shot through Andersen.
“From a young age, people always say the first shift after a goal is the most important shift,” Hartman said. “I think we need to take pride and if it’s a goal for or goal against, to go out there and get the momentum back or keep it.”