Oilers’ Russell knocks in winning goal for Leafs
EDMONTON, Alberta -- In hockey, when a player scores into his own net, credit for the goal is given to an opposing player who touched it last or was closest to the puck.
Compare that to soccer, where an own goal is, well, an own goal. It goes on the defender’s ledger.
If you wanted to make an argument that hockey should score own goals as they do in soccer, the Oilers’ Kris Russell gave a prime example.
With 1:05 remaining, his wayward attempt to clear the puck went right through the legs of goaltender Laurent Brossoit. It was the decider as the Toronto Maple Leafs went on to beat the Oilers 6-4, with Nazem Kadri adding an empty-netter with one second left.
And to show how cruel hockey can be, Russell’s gaffe came after he scored the game-tying goal with a thunderbolt from the point. Earlier in the game, he notched his 200th career point.
The Russell game-losing goal was credited to Patrick Marleau. And it says something when the winning team feels almost apologetic for the way the winner went in.
“I couldn’t imagine,” Kadri said. “I‘m feeling for him (Russell) right now. Like I said, they did a great job, they earned themselves at least a point in that one and came up a little bit short. Tough bounce, but that’s the way it’s going for us right now ... The puck just came off the goalie, and I tried to pressure the defenseman to get a secondary opportunity, tried to lift his stick. I think he panicked a little bit, the puck was bouncing, and he just ended up shooting it into his own net.”
“It was a bounce, I turned to try and battle it out and obviously you know what happened,” Russell said. “I thought we came back and played well but I‘m pretty frustrated with the way it ended. I don’t know what you want me to say. You know what happened at the end.”
“You didn’t have to be on our bench or be a teammate or a fan to feel for him,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “He had a great night. There was never any intent, obviously, to do it. A not-so-good thing happened to a great player tonight.”
The Oilers’ Mark Letestu and the Maple Leafs’ William Nylander each had a goal and two assists.
Oilers captain Connor McDavid, the reigning MVP, got a goal, and Leafs star Auston Matthews had a goal and assist.
Matthews struck at 2:15 of the first period as he fired a wrist shot past Brossoit, starting in place of Cam Talbot, who was placed on injured reserve Thursday morning.
Matthews was battling the flu.
“Anytime you play on a pretty big stage, a lot of hype around this game obviously, that kind of stuff, there’s no excuse, you’ve got to play and do your job,” Matthews said.
The goal brought chants of “Go Leafs Go!” from the many fans wearing Toronto colors in the crowd. When their favorite team visits Western Canada, it’s a given that Leafs fans will snap up tickets. As the game went on, Oilers fans responded with their own chants, with fans competing like you’d see at a European soccer stadium.
“That was a good game, it was fun,” Nylander said. “Two great fan bases in a great building, a good high-scoring game, it’s cool to be a part of those games. There was a lot going on. All in all, we’re happy to get the win.”
Leafs fans were cheering again at 5:55, when Dominic Moore’s wrist shot beat Brossoit.
And though the Oilers got one back, the Leafs restored their two-goal lead 29 seconds later. Edmonton’s Mark Letestu scored at 12:37, slotting home a pass from Jujhar Khaira. But an Oilers turnover gave the Leafs a three-on-one break, and Matt Martin finished off the passing sequence from Moore and Nylander.
The Oilers rallied in the second. Zack Kassian made it 3-2 at 6:38 of the second, banging home a pass from Khaira.
The Oilers tied it at 17:32. Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey was hobbled after blocking a shot, and the wide-open McDavid tipped home a point shot from Russell.
But with the Leafs on the power play, they got the lead back on a Nylander wrist shot with 1:31 left in the period.
The see-saw affair continued in the third as Russell blew a point shot over Andersen’s shoulder at 3:01.
NOTES: With Oilers G Cam Talbot on injured reserve, the team called up G Nick Ellis from its AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif. Ellis was 5-5-1 with a .914 save percentage in the AHL. ... Talbot played in 22 of the Oilers’ 25 games previous to Thursday’s matchup. Oilers coach McLellan said the goaltender could be out “two weeks, maybe longer.” ... The Leafs scratched D Connor Carrick, RW Nikita Soshnikov and LW Josh Leivo. ... The Oilers scratched LW Michael Cammalleri and RW Iiro Pakarinen. D Adam Larsson was in the pregame warm-up, but was a late scratch.