Core Four Lifts Leafs Past Oilers In 7-4 Thriller

Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images
Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images

It doesn’t get much better than McDavid vs. Matthews on Hockey Night in Canada. The Leafs were returning home from a five-game road trip that went through Seattle, western Canada, as well as New Jersey. I think I speak for all of Leafs Nation when I say it feels like the blue and white haven’t had a home game in quite some time. The Leafs dropped a 5-2 loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on March 1st, so they were looking for a bounce-back performance in this one. It didn’t take long for the game’s first penalty to be called, as Evander Kane was called for tripping Mitch Marner just 55 seconds into the opening period. The Leafs could not capitalize with the man advantage, but the four-line went to work just as the power play expired, and Noel Acciari made no mistake giving the Leafs a 1-0 lead with his 12th goal of the year. The Oilers wasted absolutely no time delivering a response of their own with a bomb of a shot from Mattias Ekholm, making it a 1-1 game just 22 seconds after the Leafs made it 1-0. Both teams traded chances back and forth, and Evander Kane eventually broke the tie as he beat Murray with a wrap-around to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead at the 11:24 mark of the period. The Leafs almost answered right back as Tavares and Nylander connected, but Skinner made a key save on Nylander. The Leafs continued to push, searching for an equalizer as Nylander generated another dangerous scoring chance but full credit to Skinner for shutting the door once again. Other than two weak goals allowed by Matt Murray, I would argue that the opening frame was a great period of hockey from the blue and white. They held a 14-8 shot advantage after 20 minutes. Alex Kerfoot led the way in TOI with 7:20. 

Just 20 seconds into the second period Matthews and McDavid battled each other through the neutral zone, which resulted in coincidental minors for the superstars. As soon as McDavid got out of the box, he went to work, which resulted in him scoring another weak goal on Matt Murray, this time through the five-hole to give the Oilers a 3-1 lead. The Leafs would head back to the power play as Kailer Yamamoto was called for tripping Mark Giordano at the 5:27 mark. The blue and white could only generate a single shot on goal during the man advantage as the power play moved to 0/2 on the night. With 10:49 remaining in the period, another set of coincidental minors were handed out as Michael Bunting, and Ryan McLeod were the culprits. Mitch Marner made an unbelievable play to pick off a pass directly in front of the Oilers’ goal, which resulted in an unbelievable, highlight-reel goal. He corralled the puck, did a 360 spin, and went backhand and forehand to beat Skinner for his 24th goal of the year to make it a 3-2 game. That goal brought some life back into the rink and to the Leafs’ bench as William Nylander ripped home his 34th of the year less than two minutes later to tie the game 3-3. Exactly three minutes after Marner’s highlight reel goal, Matthews and Tavares connected to give the Leafs a 4-3 lead due to Tavares’ 29th goal of the year. Mitch Marner continued to work as he forced Darnell Nurse into taking a tripping minor to send the Leafs to their third power play of the game. This time the blue and white made no mistake in capitalizing on the man advantage as Mitch Marner found Tavares in the slot, who buried his second goal of the game and 30th goal of the year. As a result of that goal, Tavares recorded the sixth 30-goal season of his career. The Oilers tried to respond before the period concluded as they loaded up a line of Draisaitl and McDavid which resulted in Justin Holl tripping McDavid with just two seconds remaining in the frame; the Oilers’ power play would roll over to start the third period. Shots on goal in the second period were 13-9 in favor of the Leafs; they also held a 27-17 shot advantage overall. TOI leader for the blue and white after 40 minutes was Auston Matthews with 14:50. 

The Leafs had 1:58 remaining on the penalty kill to start the 3rd period; they successfully killed it off, keeping their two-goal lead intact. For the third time in the game, coincidental minors were called; this time, it was Vincent Desharnais, who was called for cross-checking, and John Tavares, who was called for slashing. As the four-on-four concluded, Darnell Nurse was called for high sticking on Michael Bunting, sending the Leafs back to the power play. Tons of battles were occurring on the ice as Desharnais bear-hugged Liljegren and then threw him to the ice right in front of the ref, who waved it off. Then Bunting and Kane had a lengthy battle, resulting in double minors being called against both players. Shame on both refs in this game for letting it escalate to that level before calling something. McDavid found himself all alone on the doorstep, but credit to Murray, who managed to get across to make a fantastic save on number 97. The Leafs went the other way, and Noel Acciari drove the net, which resulted in Warren Foegle taking a slashing minor giving the Leafs another power play. The top unit went to work, and they generated a gorgeous tic tac toe goal as Marner played it down low to Tavares, who bumped it into the slot to Matthews, who made no mistake scoring his 30th of the year, making it 6-3. The Oilers went on the attack yet again on the ensuing face-off, but Murray held his ground and made another great save to keep it a three-goal game. With 7:46 remaining in regulation, Timothy Liljegren was called for tripping Warren Foegle, sending the ever-dangerous Oilers’ power play to work. They wasted very little time as Leon Draisaitl rifled it past Murray on a very difficult angle to make it a 6-4 game with 7:29 remaining. Mitch Marner was called for tripping Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at 15:52, sending the Oilers back to the man advantage. Full credit to the fantastic work of the Leafs’ penalty kill, who managed to kill off the power play. With just 50 seconds remaining in regulation, Noel Acciari hit the open net for his second of the game and 13th of the year to make it a 7-4 game, and that’s how this one would end. A great response game for the blue and white after a subpar performance in Edmonton on March 1st. Shots on goal in the third period were tied 11-11, and the blue and white held a 38-28 advantage overall. TOI leader for the Leafs in this one was Mitch Marner with 22:54. 

Tonight’s Three Stars 

1st Star: Mitch Marner – 1 Goal 3 Assists 

2nd Star: John Tavares – 2 Goals, 1 Assist 

3rd Star: Noel Acciari – 2 Goals 

The Leafs are back in action on Monday as they host the Buffalo Sabres for the second game of this four-game home stand! 

For more Leafs news and in-game tweets, follow me on Twitter @mikethefanatic! Also, be sure to check out The Leafs Late Night Podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts!

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