Maple Leafs' Nylander dazzles with first career hat trick

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·MLB Writer
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William Nylander celebrates his first goal of the night vs. the Bruins. (Getty Images)
William Nylander celebrates his first goal of the night vs. the Bruins. (Getty Images)

Coming into their Saturday night game against the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs needed a boost.

The team had lost three in a row and was losing ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race as the games-in-hand an early bye afforded them slipped through their fingers.

They found the hero they needed in the form of the rookie winger William Nylander. The smooth-skating 20-year-old showed his hands were as silky as his golden locks by putting a trio of tallies past Tuukka Rask during the Maple Leafs’ 6-5 win at TD Garden.

Here’s how the Swede earned his first career hat trick:

Goal One

Nylander joins Nazem Kadri on the rush and takes the puck cleanly on his backhand. The rookie catches Rask over-pursuing the play and gets to his forehand in tight quarters for the nifty finish.

The play starts with an outstanding takeaway by Auston Matthews and shows just how dangerous the Kadri-Matthews-Nylander line that Mike Babcock often plays after penalty kills can be.

Goal Two

On this play, Nylander shows exceptional patience, even with a backchecker on his heels. He baits Rask into going down on the assumption that he can’t possibly intend to hold the puck any longer. Then he proceeds to hold the puck a little bit longer and roofs it.

Certainly his best of the night, the play demonstrated what makes Nylander special and also frustrating at times. The youngster has a clean look on net, but is willing to forgo it to make the perfect play. In this case it worked. Had he waited a half second longer he could have had his stick lifted or been stripped of the puck.

Goal Three

There’s nothing complicated going on here – just a shot. If you were dying to credit Nylander on this one you could say he threaded it through a small crease in Rask, but realistically this is one the Finnish netminder would like back.

Nylander had all the time in the world on this power-play chance, but Rask also had plenty of time to set himself and world-class goalies don’t generally let those in. That said, three unbelievably skilled goals is a lot to ask. Sometimes you have to be good to be lucky and the Maple Leafs winger was both against the Bruins.

With Matthews and Mitch Marner having outstanding seasons, Maple Leafs fans sometimes fail to give Nylander the credit he deserves despite the fact he’d be the top rookie on almost any other team.

For one night at least, it looks like that’s not going to be a problem.