Connor McDavid led the way with a big night against his hometown team, including his first NHL goal in Toronto scored in jaw-dropping fashion, as the Edmonton Oilers snapped the Maple Leafs’ 10-game point streak.

First Period

In the opening stages of the game, unlike most nights in the Sheldon Keefe era so far, the Leafs came out flat while Edmonton was buzzing in the offensive zone, winning all the puck races and battles.

Despite the sluggish start, Toronto did flash the odd sign of promise in the offensive zone when they managed to possess the puck down there.

Plays like these were few and far between, though, as the momentum of the game was clearly in the Oilers’ favour, and it didn’t take long before Edmonton turned it into the opening goal.

Starting with a turnover up the wall by Justin Holl, the Leafs were ragdolled for a lengthy own-zone shift prior to the goal — the first 5v5 goal against with the Marincin – Holl pairing on the ice for the Leafs.

The Leafs‘ gameplan to start games has often involved heavy minutes for their stars in pursuit of an early lead, but with the big guns off to a slow start, the fourth line managed to provide a bit of a spark courtesy of Adam Brooks, who seems to be gaining more confidence with each passing game.

Midway through the period, the Leafs got a bit of a scare when a Zack Kassian shot went off of Morgan Rielly’s chin, but he returned soon after bearing stitches.

As is often the case for a team spending too much time in its own end, the Leafs ran into penalty trouble in the opening 20, not helped by some questionable calls that went against them.

Edmonton, tenacious and pressing hard in five-man units in the offensive zone, were also able to generate some dangerous looks off the rush, an ominous sign for what was to come in terms of the Leafs’ neutral zone structure. Andersen was able to stop all of them, although this odd sequence nearly got through him.

As the period drew to a close, the pace of play seemed to even out a little more, with both teams trading blows. This sequence with the big boys on the ice was the Leafs’ best chance of the period by a long shot.

The frame ended with the Leafs lucky to be down by only a goal and in need of a reset at the intermission.

Second Period

Right off the hop, the Oilers extended their lead in the opening minute. An absolutely wide open neutral zone for Connor McDavid to sail through is not how the whiteboard adjustments were drawn up during the intermission pep talk.

The Leafs appeared to be stunned, conceding the line with ease again and doing a lot of standing around defensively as Edmonton pushed further and made it 3-0.

An interesting decision afterward from Sheldon Keefe to yank Andersen as a mercy pull/wake-up call seemed to work briefly as the Leafs scored on the very next shift via Jason Spezza. This was a good five-man movement (all five Leafs touched the puck) to break the puck out and score a well-worked goal off the rush.

Thrown into the game, Hutchinson responded well as he came up with a pair of good stops early on.

A bit of a turning point in the game, the Leafs didn’t take advantage of a glorious opportunity to get right back into it as the Oilers took two quick penalties to give the Leafs an extended 5-on-3 advantage.

A few minutes later, an innocent-looking play turned into another goal for the Oilers. Rarely should a short side shot go in from outside the dot, albeit Travis Dermott could’ve played this one a little tighter.

With the Leafs in a big hole now, to their credit, they didn’t slink away quietly, no doubt helped by the confidence of having chased games successfully in the recent past. The team’s fourth line provided the first spark, with a good end-to-end movement completed by a nice pass by Mason Marchment and a better finish from Frederik Gauthier for Marchment’s first-ever NHL point.

It was then game on after the Leafs pulled within one in the final minute of the period courtesy of Pierre Engvall, who was having a hang of a game:

Third Period

The Leafs came out with good intent to start the final frame and looked like they were going to generate a real push for the equalizer. Notably, they upped the physical factor, once courtesy of Zach Hyman along with this solid instance of body contact from Travis Dermott to drop a big man in Darnell Nurse.

However, the Leafs found themselves shorthanded again due to a high stick from Holl off of a defensive-zone draw. The Oilers were able to take advantage of it after failing to convert on their previous three chances on the power play, with the Leafs unable to get their sort outs right off the initial entry — not totally unlike the Kyle Connor goal in Winnipeg.

Off of the ensuing faceoff, an apparent high stick against William Nylander wasn’t called when it might have changed the complexion of the game.

One of the storylines heading into the game was McDavid’s struggles in his hometown and lack of goals as of yet in his returns to Toronto. He felt due, and it’s not like we can really act surprised. He all but ended the game with an otherworldly one-on-one move past Rielly before lifting it over Michael Hutchinson.

You have to tip your cap to McDavid here; he baited Rielly into crossing over and then absolutely torched him in the blink of an eye in the way only McDavid can. Somehow, in a flash, this went from a contained one-on-one situation to a clear-cut breakaway in which Rielly could hardly get a hand on him.

The Leafs did get a chance on the power play late in the game when this pretty release from Auston Matthews for his 22nd home goal of the season made the final five minutes a little more interesting:

While Toronto did generate a few good looks at the end, especially with the net empty and the Leafs on a late power-play, they couldn’t convert and saw their 10-game point streak come to an end.

Post Game Notes

  • There were very few bright spots on the Leafs tonight given their uninspired performance at even strength (34% xGF), but one player that really stood out was Pierre Engvall. He led the way with a goal and assist, with the latter being a nice pass to Jason Spezza to get Toronto back in it. At 5v5, he registered a 52.63 CF%, a 56.25 FF%, a 50.00 SF%, and a plus-two goal differential. He was absolutely chugging over 200 feet with his long, powerful stride — one of the few Leafs consistently tracking back hard and winning puck battles — and is showing a lot of confidence offensively right now. The penalty kill did give up one goal, but on their four successful kills, Engvall was a big part of it, closing down space with his powerful strides and long reach, winning puck battles, and making certain on his clearances.
  • Between the Frederik Gauthier goal and Engvall’s contributions, even in the losing effort, it was positive to see the Leafs’ depth lines at least keep them in this game for the most part on a night when their big guns just didn’t have it. It was “one of those games” in a lot of ways; nothing seemed to be as fluid as it had been lately for the offensive leaders on the team — bobbled pucks, passes slightly off the mark — and that was no better encapsulated than on the missed opportunity on the five-on-three. This was probably the team’s worst performance under Keefe when you look at the 60 minutes in totality, so it will be a good test to see how the team responds vs. Winnipeg on Wednesday.
  • After an exceptional run of games, the line of Alexander Kerfoot, John Tavares, and William Nylander had a disastrous performance at 5v5 and were completely dominated by the Connor McDavid unit time after time; the neutral zone was too open too often, which is the cardinal sin against McDavid’s line, and this trio didn’t own the puck in the offensive zone like we were used to seeing lately. The trio combined to record a 19.05 CF%, a 21.05 FF%, a 21.43 SF%, allowed two goals against, a 32.89 xGF, and a 20.00 SCF%. On defense, the decision to give the matchup in large part to Martin MarincinJustin Holl did not work out as planned, although other permutations on defense didn’t fare much better when Keefe tried some alternatives; the Leafs just weren’t stiff enough through the neutral zone or at the blue line, and they did a lot of standing around defensively.
  • Both Frederik Andersen and Michael Hutchinson weren’t at their best in this game as neither could hold down the fort and keep the Leafs in a game in which they were outplayed for the vast majority. Andersen was yanked early in the second after allowing three goals on 19 shots against, posting a .842 SV% in roughly 22 minutes of action. While Hutchinson was fine at the start, he ultimately didn’t fare much better in giving up three goals on 16 shots. You can second-guess the decision to pull Andersen and point out that the Leafs made a game of it (for a short stretch at least) later on and maybe could’ve used a game-changing save somewhere from their starter, but it’s hard to make too convincing of a case here when the Leafs were as flat as they were, conceded as many scoring chances as they did, and owned the puck so little.
  • The big-picture perspective: The loss snaps a remarkable 10-game point streak that began, funny enough, against the Oilers on December 14th. In the time between these games, the Leafs have catapulted themselves up the standings and closed the gap on the Boston Bruins for top spot in the division. The Tampa Bay Lightning are also heating up majorly with a seven-game winning streak of their own, so it looks like Toronto is in yet another dog fight with the other two top teams in the Atlantic. This should be a fun second half of the season thanks to the Leafs’ incredible run to put themselves back in this position.

Clip of the Night

Notable Stats

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Locations

Condensed Game