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William Nylander powers Maple Leafs over Red Wings 3-2 in Sweden

STOCKHOLM — William Nylander had dozens of family and friends in the stands to see his first NHL game on home soil. The slick Swedish winger didn't disappoint.
Toronto's William Nylander in action during the NHL Global Series Sweden ice hockey match between Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings and at Avicii Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, Friday Nov. 17, 2023. (Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency via AP)

STOCKHOLM — William Nylander had dozens of family and friends in the stands to see his first NHL game on home soil.

The slick Swedish winger didn't disappoint.

Nylander had a goal and two assists to match Maple Leafs captain John Tavares as Toronto roared back from a 2-0 deficit in the third period to stun the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Friday.

"This was very special," said Nylander, whose franchise record for consecutive games with at least a point to start a season now stands at 16.

"And a lot of fun."

Tyler Bertuzzi had the other goal to go along with an assist for Toronto (9-5-3), which got 27 saves from Ilya Samsonov in the Leafs' first regular-season game outside North America.

Lucas Raymond, who is also from Sweden, and Daniel Sprong replied for Detroit (8-6-3). The Wings opened the four-game NHL Global Series with Thursday's 5-4 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Alex Lyon made 26 saves at Avicii Arena.

"A special experience being in my home country," Raymond said. "(But) at the end of the day, we came here to win two games."

Set to cash in on his next contract with unrestricted free agency looming in July, Nylander continued the most dominant stretch of his career in front of his grandmother, who watched him play an NHL game in person for the first time.

"Hopefully she's still in the stands waiting for me," he said with a grin.

Nylander is the latest Swede to reach stardom in Toronto, following in the footsteps of the late Borje Salming and former captain Mats Sundin.

"A very special day for all the Swedes on our team," he said. "And obviously the history the Leafs have with Swedish players – very special day."

Down 2-0 through 40 minutes, Toronto got on the board at 3:50 of the third when Nylander wheeled around the offensive zone and put the puck right on Bertuzzi's tape for him to tap home his fourth goal of the season.

David Kampf rattled the crossbar and Lyon stopped two Auston Matthews chances as the Leafs turned the screws on an opponent playing for the second time in 24 hours — and down to five defencemen because of injury — before Nylander tied it at 13:03 on a power play with his 11th goal of the season. 

"Pretty evident what he’s done over the last 15 or 16 months here – put himself in the conversation with the best players in the game," Tavares said of Nylander. "He continues to show on a nightly basis how dominant he is and the game-breaker that he can be."

Tavares then put Toronto in front for the first time just 1:24 later. He took a Bertuzzi pass after the winger won a puck battle behind the Wings net to secure the winning margin.

"We tried to keep the game very simple, tried to get our legs underneath us," Tavares said. "Eventually we were able to break through and tilt the momentum."

Detroit, which fell behind Ottawa 4-0 before rallying to earn a point, played with more structure than Thursday's performance against another Atlantic Division rival on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

After the Leafs were denied a Mitch Marner goal in the second on a sequence where Lyon's net was dislodged and Wings blueliner Jake Walman was hurt, Detroit took the lead on a penalty shot — the first successful attempt outside North America in NHL history.

Sprong moved in on Samsonov and made a nice deke to the forehand to score his fifth goal at 12:52.

Detroit went up 2-0 just 1:52 later when Raymond fired his seventh goal - and second in as many nights - in off the post.

Lyon, who got his first start of the season, didn't have a lot to do at the other end until the Leafs finally started to push in the third – led by Nylander in his own backyard.

"Playing at a real elite level," Tavares said of his Swedish linemate. "He's hot right now and leading the way for us."


Salming's son, Anders, dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff between Nylander and Raymond. Borje Salming, who died last November at age 71, played 16 seasons for Toronto and was the first European inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Sundin joined the team's staff, including general manager Brad Treliving and president Brendan Shanahan for dinner Thursday. "Some good old stories," Keefe said. "He's a proud Maple Leaf." Sundin also read out the starting lineup in Toronto's locker room before the game.


The Leafs play the Minnesota Wild in Stockholm on Sunday, while the Wings host the New Jersey Devils in Detroit on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2023.

The Canadian Press