EditorsNote: fixes “Andersen” in fifth graf
Maple Leafs manhandle Oilers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Toronto Maple Leafs might be the worst road team in the NHL, but they began their trip through Western Canada in convincing fashion Tuesday, dumping the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 at Rogers Place.
“We went out there and it probably wasn’t our prettiest win, but we’re very happy to kick off this road trip with two points,” said Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly after the Leafs picked up just their second road victory of the season. “When you play teams like Edmonton with the amount of speed that they have, it’s important that we have our legs with us, that we’re skating and keeping up with them. I think that was a big part of what happened tonight.”
The Oilers were looking for revenge after losing a hard-fought game to the Leafs in overtime earlier this month, but all they got was more frustration.
Captain Connor McDavid cut Toronto’s lead to 4-2 four minutes into the third period, but that was as close as the Oilers would get. Edmonton lost its third in a row to fall to 12-10-2 (5-6-0 at home in its new arena).
Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen made 28 saves for the win. The Leafs improved to 10-8-4, including 2-5-4 on the road.
”It was a good win for our team, obviously,“ Leafs coach Mike Babcock said his penalty killers thwarted all six Edmonton advantages. ”We were in the box way too much, which is disappointing. I thought the kill was real good, we scored timely goals, and I thought we did a lot of good things.
“We started heavy in the offensive zone in the first period in particular. Any time you’re on the road and you can get the lead, obviously, that’s positive.”
Leafs rookie center Auston Matthews started the game by taking the first minor penalty of his career -- hooking on McDavid at 3:16 -- then atoned 90 seconds after getting out of the box with his 10th goal of the season.
“It was nice to make up for it, I really don’t like taking penalties,” said Matthews, who redirected a feed from fellow rookie William Nylander to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead at the first intermission.
“(A fan) was giving it to me in the box, so I got out of there pretty motivated. Willie made an unbelievable pass, it was great play. All I had to do was tap it in.”
Toronto ran away with it in the second period, scoring three times to take a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Winger James Van Riemsdyk got it started with his 10th of the year at 2:49, and center Nazem Kadri (who had two goals in his last game against Edmonton) scored at 6:00. Moments after Toronto killed a five-on-three power play, center Zach Hyman rubbed salt in the wound with a goalmouth tap-in at the other end at 17:58.
Defenseman Andrej Sekera scored the only goal of the period for Edmonton at 4:50, briefly cutting the deficit to 2-1.
This game was called a lot tighter than the teams’ first meeting of the season on Nov. 1, with the Leafs penalized twice for first-period fouls on McDavid and forced to play short-handed six times in total, but the Oilers’ sputtering power play couldn’t take advantage.
“We had a chance to make it 3-2 on a five-on-three and didn‘t,” Oilers winger Jordan Eberle said. “Then they went down and made it 4-1. That was a big difference in the game. We didn’t find a way to score on that five-on-three and change the momentum.”
The Oilers pulled goalie Cam Talbot at the second intermission, but nobody in the room blamed the goalie who allowed four goals on 14 shots.
“Definitely by no means was it on Talbot,” McDavid said. “We didn’t give up a lot of shots, but there were some Grade-A chances. That was on us, not the goaltender.”
Jonas Gustavsson came on in relief of Talbot and stopped all nine shots he faced.
The Oilers have been all over the map in recent weeks: They had a five-game losing streak followed by a three-game winning streak followed by their current three-game losing streak.
“It’s frustrating, the highs and lows,” McDavid said. “It’s stupid mistakes that are costing us. We just have to bear down.”
NOTES: Leafs coach Mike Babcock revealed that C Peter Holland did not make the road trip in an apparent dispute over playing time. ... The Leafs were the second-worst road team in the NHL at 1-5-4 before the Tuesday victory. ... Saturday’s win over Washington was the first time Toronto has won a game in which rookie C Auston Matthews scored. ... The Leafs have seven rookies in their lineup, three of whom are in the top five in NHL rookie scoring -- Mitch Marner, Matthews and William Nylander. ... Edmonton’s power play was shut out for the ninth time in 11 games, despite getting six changes Tuesday. ... Oilers LW Benoit Pouliot was held pointless for the 18th time in 21 games this season. The Oilers are 0-8 in the past seven games he played and 3-0 in the past three he sat.