Auston Matthews called it.
Once coach Mike Babcock reinserted the slumping William Nylander on his right side, the Maple Leafs star centre took it upon himself to play monkey exterminator.
"He’s going to score a goal, and the weight of the world is going to be off his shoulders," Matthews accurately predicted Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s matinee versus the Wild.
"I told him I’ll definitely be looking for him tomorrow, and I told him to shoot everything."
And so it was written, that a Nylander-Matthews-Nylander give-and-go on a buttery behind-the-net cycle would see Nylander glide out from behind goalie Devan Dubnyk’s right blind spot and snap a wrist shot high and clean and only 256 days in the waiting.
"I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe it. Finally.’" Nylander said post-game. "There are a couple more things I can do better. But it’s at least been nice that you’re able to get chances when you’re not playing at 100 per cent. Because then when you are at 100 per cent, you’ll be good."
Riding elation from his first goal of the season, his first in an unlucky 13 games dating back to April — and his first point of his past nine outings, snapping the greatest production drought of his career and likely his life — Nylander leapt into the arms of a giddy Travis Dermott, un-swallowed himself from a group hug, reached back to his nameplate and threw an imaginary monkey over the glass and deep into Section 323.