The Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded with an improved effort to close out their Western Canada road trip as they held off the Edmonton Oilers for a 3-2 victory on Saturday night.

First Period

Both teams came out with good jump to start this game as the Leafs and Oilers traded chances, making for an exciting opening few minutes.

As the period progressed, the Leafs started to pick up some momentum as they came at the Oilers in waves and piled on the offensive pressure.

Plays like this became the norm for the Leafs from about the halfway point of the opening frame and the shot clock climbed up as a result. John Tavares was part of that surge and nearly grabbed the 1-0 goal:

The same goes for Auston Matthews, who received a great pass from Kasperi Kapanen right in the slot.

Soon enough, the Leafs strong play forced the Oilers into taking a penalty, giving way to a Leafs power play that came close but could not find the answer. The first unit looked great and fired a flurry of chances, while the second unit had trouble entering the zone.

Towards the end of the period, the Leafs went on another the power play. This time around, they broke through.

Morgan Rielly couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present than a big goal on the power play to make it a deserved 1-0 Leafs lead through 20 minutes.

Second Period

At the start of the second period, the Oilers started with a power play after Frederik Gauthier took a penalty at the end of the first. While the Oilers had their chances, Frederik Andersen stood his ground and kept the Leafs in front.

After that power play, the Oilers grabbed some momentum and continued to push at 5v5, but again Andersen was able to weather the storm. Minutes later, the Oilers went to another power play and you can take one guess as to who came up big again.

After the second penalty kill, it seemed to go to the Leafs’ legs as they pushed back and generated some offense of their own. They were really making Anthony Stolarz work hard to keep the Oilers in the game.

Rielly, meanwhile, was doing his part again at both ends of the ice.

Minutes later, the Leafs finally had their insurance tally:

John Tavares tied his personal career best in goals with 38 on the season with a great showcase of his puck protection skills and hands in tight.

With that goal, would the Leafs let up on the gas as the period winded down?

This play summed up the remainder of the period as there were few highlights to speak of. While both teams did trade some chances, none of them really were high percentage looks.

When the horn sounded, the Leafs found themselves ahead by two for the second consecutive game and were looking to avoid the third-period let-off that sunk them in Vancouver.

Third Period

Much like how the second period ended, the third started off a little dull as both teams did not generate much pressure on offense. The play shifted back and forth while both goalies did what they are paid to do.

Roughly three minutes in, the Leafs finally broke through for a put-away goal.

This was an incredible play for all three players who registered a point. John Tavares did a nice job controlling the puck as he hopped off the bench and protected it before dishing off to William Nylander. Nylander sped down the wing and fed a nice saucer pass to a streaking Jake Muzzin, who made no mistake.

With the Leafs now comfortably ahead by three goals, score effects set in and the Oilers made their late push.

If Andersen’s stick is not there to redirect the shot, there is a good chance the complexion of this game changes completely. To his credit, Andersen put himself in position to make the save and he did just that.

Not long after, the Oilers once again found themselves on the power play after Rielly went to the box for holding. The Leafs once again did a good job of staying aggressive towards the puck carrier and forcing turnovers.

Cue Mitch Marner.

Marner has made great strides this year as an all-around player and his play on the penalty kill has been especially impressive of late (far be it from me to tell Marner how to generate offense, but he really should shoot the puck more).

The Oilers got another power play mere moments after this sequence above, making way for a critical 3v5 penalty kill for Toronto.

This was by far the best Oilers PP chance of the night and they were moving the puck very well, as demonstrated above. As usual, it was Andersen who did a tremendous job of maintaining his composure and making some spectacular stops to keep Edmonton at bay.

After this, the game appeared to be winding down as neither team made much noise on offense. The Oilers, to their credit, were not ready to go quietly.

Not even 46 seconds after the Oilers spoiled Andersen’s shutout bid, they suddenly made it a game.

Matthews did not do a great job clearing the puck out of his end and the Oilers were able to force a turnover that led to Oscar Klefbom’s tally. Much like the previous goal, the defensive-zone coverage lapses are the lack of detail you don’t want to see in closing out a game.

Speaking of which, Edmonton almost tied the game up had it not been for this game-sealing stop.

A sigh of relief as the Leafs are able to prevent a second consecutive third-period collapse.

Clip of the Night

Notable Stats

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts


Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Locations


Post Game Notes

  • For the second consecutive game, the Auston Matthews line was much better at controlling the play and was easily the best Leafs line overall even though they could not buy a goal. At 5v5, they registered a 70.37 CF%, a 73.91 FF%, a 69.23 SCF%, a 100.00 HDCF%, and a 0.65 xGF. Being matched up against the Connor McDavid line all night saw Matthews, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson out-possessing them by nearly 70% in nearly nine minutes against. That said, we all eagerly await Babcock pulling the trigger on reuniting him with William Nylander (Matthews is in the midst of a 5 game goalless drought), but tonight’s game was a step in the right direction for that line.
  • Meanwhile, it was John Tavares that proved to be the difference maker as he registered a point on all three goals scored by the Leafs tonight. He and his linemates, Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman, had a strong game in the offensive zone as they had a team-leading 1.53 xGF at 5v5. As a whole, they did well, albeit not world beaters like the Matthews line, as they posted a 56.25 CF%, a 56.67 FF%, a 58.33 SF%, a 76.92 SCF%, and an 85.71 HDCF% at 5v5. Back to Tavares, his goal tonight was number 38 on the season, which tied a career high in the category and brought him within two of the all-time record for goals from a player scored in their first season after being a UFA signing (the record belonging to Marian Gaborik who scored 40 in 2009-10). Simply put, Tavares has come as advertised and has been a driving force in the Leafs offense all year. He is pacing for 46 goals, which was last acheived by Wendel Clark in the 1993-94 season, which is the 8th best season all-time for a Maple Leaf player.
  • For the second consecutive game, the Morgan RiellyRon Hainsey pairing had a strong game and were easily the Leafs best defensive unit all night long. At 5v5, they registered a 1.81 xGF, a 65.91 CF%, a 65% FF%, and a 76 xGF Adj which were all team bests. With the status of Jake Gardiner uncertain and Travis Dermott continuing to recover from his shoulder injury, the Rielly-Hainsey pair has really stepped up in a big way to help stabilize the shorthanded Leafs defense.
  • As the tweet from Leafs PR indicated, this win gave Frederik Andersen his 104th win in a Leafs uniform to pass Harry Lumley on the franchise leaderboard. This season has once again been a historical one for Andersen as he continues to rewrite the Leafs record books with each passing victory. The next on the list is Mike Palmateer at 5th with 129 wins, which Andersen should pass by early next season should he maintains his current pace heading into 2019-20.
  • Finally, a defensive pairing that had a big bounce-back game was the Jake Muzzin-Nikita Zaitsev unit that looked much more composed at both ends of the ice in comparison to Wednesday. They recorded a 52.75 xGF%, a 53.85 CF%, a 52.38 FF%, and a 53.98 xGF Score/Flurry Adj at 5v5 against the Oilers. By no means did they control the pace of the play like the Rielly-Hainsey pairing did, but Muzzin and Zaitsev played a key role in helping the Leafs secure a much-needed two-points with their all-around improved performance.

Condensed Game