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I hope you enjoyed watching Connor, Toronto. He’s a lot of fun. Final Score: 6-4 Oilers

After getting pumped by the Leafs 4-1 at home a few weeks ago, the Oilers had the opportunity to return the favour with a little bit of revenge at the ACC tonight. The problem, of course, is that Toronto has been red hot since they gassed Mike Babcock so the boys would have to come up with another strong effort like the one we saw on Saturday if they were truly planning on getting the job done. Against the Bruins, the Oilers managed the puck well, got very strong goaltending, and found ways to capitalize on their chances which is exactly what they would need to beat a team that is 9-0-1 in their last 10 games. The last time these two teams met up, the Oilers tried to run and gun with the Leafs but couldn’t outscore their defensive shortcomings and I was hoping that they were going to play with a little bit more structure in round two.

As always, the biggest favour the Oilers could do for themselves and the first step in putting two points up on the board was to get a quick start and maybe even get an early goal if possible. Fortunately, the boys hit the ground running and started about as well as we could have hoped, complete with plenty of shots on a net and a goal that gave them the early lead we needed. For 20 minutes, the Oilers looked about as good as we’ve seen all season and it really felt as though if they keep it up then they’d be giving themselves a great chance to win. So when the boys added three more in the second period, extending their lead to three goals on two separate occasions, I was having a hard time controlling my excitement about what was unfolding before us. The bad news was that Toronto wasn’t about to fold the tent and bow out gracefully, and eventually battled their way back into the game every time that it started to look out of reach. That’s not to say that things ever looked in doubt but those late Toronto goals certainly made things more interesting.

Up by a goal with 20 minutes to play, the Oilers had a chance to close out a win for the third straight game in a row but it wasn’t going to be easy. If they kept skating and firing pucks on net, I felt like they were going to be okay, but if the plan was to sit back and try to play a prevention style of defence then I really didn’t like their odds. The good news was that sitting back seemed to be the last thing on their minds as they kept battling and pushing forward, eventually extending their lead and buying themselves the insurance that they needed to close things out. At the end of the day, this was a solid road game for an Oilers team that desperately needs points and while you could say that there are a few details that need to be cleaned up, you have to appreciate the way they competed for the full 60 minutes. Huge win for the boys.

The wrap.

THE BRIGHT SIDE

  • Oscar Klefbom opened the scoring after a very strong shift in the Leafs’ zone where the Oilers were firing all kinds of pucks on net before the sexy Swede was finally able to beat Andersen with a sneaky wrister from the left side.
  • After going 32 games without a goal, Darnell Nurse now finds himself with markers in back-to-back games after he roofed a beauty past Andersen to start off the second period. McDavid found Nurse trailing the play late and hit him with a beautiful cross-ice pass that ol’ Darryl made no mistake of draining.
  • Only moments after Nurse put the Oilers up by two, Kailer Yamamoto added a third goal as a result of being the business end of a beautiful passing play that started with Leon Draisaitl sending a wonderful backhand pass to Caleb Jones who then found Yamamoto wide open in front of the net.
  • Alex Chiasson restored the Oilers’ three-goal lead with a filthy little wrister that beat Hutchinson high on the short side. In my opinion, this was a shot that the goalie probably should have stopped but I sure as shit won’t be complaining about it.
  • Leon Draisaitl got his eighth powerplay goal of the season midway through the third period as he restored the Oilers’ two-goal lead with a sneaky little shot through traffic that beat Hutchinson just inside the post on the glove side. I know he’s taking a lot of heat around here lately, but I really thought that Draisaitl had another strong game as he looks to be playing his way out of December’s funk.
  • Connor McDavid was sensational tonight and really looked like his only goal was to put on a show in front of the Toronto hockey fans that so desperately wish they had him on their roster. From start to finish, he was electric and his highlight-reel goal that we’ll all be watching over and over again was an exclamation point on what was an incredible night for the captain. With four points in the game, McDavid was a force all night and it’s almost a shame that he wasn’t able to get even more done considering how well he played.
  • Mike Smith got his third straight start for the Oilers tonight as he looked to recapture the magic he showed against the Bruins on Saturday morning. To put it lightly, Smith was a major reason that the Oilers walked away with two points and it wasn’t exactly surprising to see Tippett go back to the veteran netminder to see if he could provide the same foundation for the boys as he did against the Bruins two days ago. To his credit, Smith was fairly solid again tonight and while the stats aren’t overly sexy, he made enough saves to outduel his opponents and close out the win. Smith finished the night with 32 saves and a .889 save%.
  • Since they’ve been put together, I’ve really liked the Nuge-Draisaitl-Yamamoto line and I really hope that this trio sticks together for as long as possible so that they can further develop some chemistry.
  • I like the way the Oilers started the game with plenty of shots on net. All season long, I’ve been complaining about wanting more shots so to see them come out firing over the past few games has been a source of happiness for me. Good things happen when you put pucks on net and I hope this is a trend that will continue as we move forward.
  • The Oilers only went 1/5 on the powerplay despite having quite a few solid chances and it obviously would have gone a long way had they been able to get more than one done with the man advantage. I know you can’t score multiples on the PP every night, but it would have been really nice to see them punish the Leafs for their constant cheating.

THE FACE PALMERS

  • Jason Spezza got the Leafs on the board (3-1) only 39 seconds after Yamamoto’s put the Oilers up by three, bringing his team back to within two goals. Leading up to the goal, the Leafs moved the puck effectively in the Oilers’ zone and the play culminated with Spezza beating Smith up high on the blocker side.
  • Freddie Gauthier got the Leafs’ second goal of the night after a nice little passing play that saw the Buds move the puck up ice very quickly before the eventual goal scorer found himself in all alone on Mike Smith. I need to see another replay but I feel like the Oilers got caught on the long change and the Leafs were able to take advantage of the delay in getting everyone back out on the ice.
  • Pierre Engvall pulled the Leafs back to within one (4-3) when he got his stick on a puck in the slot that found its way through traffic before eventually making it through Smith’s legs and into the back of the net. After being down by three goals on two separate occasions, the Leafs battled their way back into the game, even crowbarring the momentum back into their favour.
  • Auston Matthews got himself on the board with a powerplay goal (6-4) as a result of his brilliant release from the sideboards. Up until that point, I wasn’t even sure that Matthews was playing but, I guess, it was only fair to have him get a single point after Connor McDavid went out and put on a clinic.
  • The Oilers were looking really good on the PK until Matthews got the Leafs on the board so I have to mention that here, but I will also give the boys the props they deserve for that massive 5-on-3 kill early in the game.
  • We’re in year five of Connor McDavid’s career and it still feels like Toronto is just as stuck on missing out on the McLottery as they were when it happened. Even worse is how they continually try to compare McDavid and Matthews even though there really aren’t all that much alike. It’s weird, right?
  • I was sad when Frederik Andersen got the hook. 😔

SCORING SUMMARY

1ST PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
07:51 Edmonton Oscar Klefbom (5) ASST: Adam Larsson (3), Connor McDavid (43) 1-0

2ND PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
00:34 Edmonton Darnell Nurse (4) ASST: Connor McDavid (44) 2-0
01:45 Edmonton Kailer Yamamoto (2) ASST: Caleb Jones (3), Leon Draisaitl (42) 3-0
02:24 Toronto Jason Spezza (6) ASST: Pierre Engvall (5), Kasperi Kapanen (15) 3-1
13:41 Edmonton Alex Chiasson (5) ASST: Joakim Nygard (5), Kris Russell (5) 4-1
16:22 Toronto Frederik Gauthier (5) ASST: Mason Marchment (1), Adam Brooks (2) 4-2
19:13 Toronto Pierre Engvall (7) ASST: Justin Holl (12), Kasperi Kapanen (16) 4-3

3RD PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
06:26 Edmonton PPG – Leon Draisaitl (25) ASST: Alex Chiasson (9), Connor McDavid (45) 5-3
11:26 Edmonton Connor McDavid (24) ASST: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (17) 6-3
13:18 Toronto PPG – Auston Matthews (29) ASST: Tyson Barrie (19), Mitchell Marner (30) 6-4

#GOODCONTENT

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