An offensive outburst in the second half of the game by the Maple Leafs’ star producers, including four points from Mitch Marner in a 17-minute span, powered the Maple Leafs to a thrilling 7-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers on HNIC.

Your game in 10:

1.   In a bright start to the game for the Leafs, Sheldon Keefe opted to go power-on-power with his matchups, which is a move I loved coming off of a game between these teams earlier this month in which McDavid ran the show out in Edmonton (basically, challenge the stars to answer the call back on home ice).

The Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner line dictated the terms against the McDavid line in their first few shifts head-to-head, controlling the play and drawing a penalty off of Evander Kane’s trip of Marner a minute into the game.

The Leafs threatened on their early power-play opportunity and could not convert, so it was a big contribution to have the team’s fourth line jump over the boards at the tail end of the power play against the Leon Draisaitl line and bury the game’s opening goal just after the penalty expired.

It was a lunchpail effort down low from Zach Aston-Reese and David Kampf to recover a puck followed by a really nice no-look reverse pass from Kampf from behind the net to ZAR out front, where Noel Acciari was positioned exactly where he scores all of his goals — right in front — to bury the rebound.

Kampf is really coming alive offensively with seven points in his last 10 games after a very slow stretch of zero goals, two assists, and a minus-nine in his previous 17. His last two assists haven’t been nothing apples, either; both were really heads-up, skilled plays around the net (the first being the setup on the Bunting goal vs. NJ).

Kampf’s play and production were a real concern at one point — and then he lost his regular running mate in Pierre Engvall at the deadline — but it’s turned around sharply of late and there appears to be promising chemistry building between him and Acciari.

Sheldon Keefe was definitely rewarded for keeping this line intact even as he went back to 11/7. A trustworthy checking line that provides positive momentum, some physicality, and semi-regular offense would significantly elevate the matchup challenge against this Leafs team at playoff time.

2.    The Leafs ended up leaving the first period down 2-1 even though it was by no means a bad effort from Toronto in the opening 20 minutes.

A big part of it was that Matt Murray was not sharp in the first period. The 1-1 goal by Mattias Ekholm was ripped and well-placed, but it beat Murray clean at his near post with no obstruction in his sightline.

The 2-1 goal was worse; Justin Holl did just enough against the oncoming rush from McDavid and Evander Kane to force the play wide, but Murray overplayed it and got stuck on his far post, leaving him exposed on a soft wraparound goal.

3.   The 3-1 goal by Connor McDavid in the second period was also stoppable, but of the three conceded at five-on-five, this was more of a defensive breakdown from the Leafs than it was Murray’s fault.

In his fifth game as a Leaf, it was the first time Jake McCabe has been on the ice for a goal against, but he was again solid in this game again next to TJ Brodie and did his job on this play by gapping up well, not getting beat wide, and forcing McDavid to slow up and move east-west. There should’ve been layers of forward support coming back to meet McDavid in the middle of the ice as he cut across, but John Tavares didn’t read the developing danger coming back to the defensive zone and Michael Bunting was casually coasting back.

When you give McDavid that kind of time and space to meander around the offensive zone, the outcome is predictable.

4.   At this point, the concern from the Leafs’ perspective wasn’t that they were playing poorly but that they now had to chase a game against one of the most dangerous rush/transition teams in the league. It would’ve been easy to turn a 3-1 deficit into a larger one if the Leafs got impatient, took uncalculated risks, turned pucks over, and got caught with numbers up ice. It would’ve been even easier to get impatient after they couldn’t buy one on a dangerous-looking power-play effort with the game at 3-1.

There was one moment when Matt Murray needed to come up with a save to keep it at 3-1 shortly after that unsuccessful power play, but otherwise, the Leafs’ approach was commendable in terms of the lack of panic in their game when down a couple of goals. They remained patient, stayed within their structure, didn’t gift McDavid or Draisaitl much in the way of easy offense, and continued to make life difficult on the Oilers through the neutral zone, forcing a lot of turnovers in that area of the ice.

5.   Finally, the dam broke thanks to a couple of fantastic reads without the puck from Mitch Marner to anticipate where the play was headed on two Oilers’ breakout attempts and force turnovers in the offensive zone, leading directly to the 3-2 and 3-3 goals.

Marner’s first interception was directly at top of the Oilers’ crease, where the poise on the puck afterward was a marvel to watch. Marner’s awareness and his hands in tight to outwait Stuart Skinner before pulling it around him to finish it off at the back post was jaw-dropping to witness.

It felt like a game-changing play at the time, and it certainly proved to be one.

6.    Mitch Marner‘s elite anticipation skills and shiftiness shone through again just a minute later. In one smooth move, he both cut off the D-to-D option for Vincent Desharnais and swooped across to pick off his other passing option through the middle of the ice.

On both the 3-2 and 3-3 goals, it was Marner’s ability to turn those puck recoveries on the forecheck into instant offense that made them truly special plays. On this 3-3 goal, Marner knocked a fluttering puck down to his stick and perfectly led a streaking-in Nylander with his pass into the gap in the slot.

Special, special stuff.

7.     The Leafs continued to turn Oilers breakout attempts into turnovers and quick-strike offense with a good play in the neutral zone from Auston Matthews to swoop in and get a stick lift in on Darnell Nurse as he attempted to dump the puck in deep into the Leafs’ zone. John Tavares and Matthews sprung free on a fast-developing two-on-one and executed it perfectly.

Between Marner, Matthews, Nylander and Tavares, the Leafs’ stars simply took the game over in the second period with determined puck-pursuit efforts without the puck followed by elite execution with the puck in the resulting transition opportunities.

With three goals in three minutes, the walls were caving in on the Oilers and the SBA was absolutely buzzing.

8.   The Leafs’ power play — dangerous but unable to convert earlier in the game — then went for the Oilers’ throat late in the second period and again halfway through the third period.

Mitch Marner was again the straw stirring the drink on the first one. #16 drew the initial tripping call off of Nurse before his backhand feed across the slot led to a bit of a broken play during which John Tavares reacted quickly to slide it in past Skinner from the middle of the slot to make it 5-3.

It would’ve been a crime for Auston Matthews to fire eight shots on net without a goal in this game, but the goal finally arrived on a third-period power play in which the urgency and execution of the puck movement on the man advantage were again excellent from the Leafs’ perspective.

There has been a lot of understandable concern about whether Matthews is playing through an injury and generally why the offense isn’t coming as easy for him this year, but after McDavid stole the show in Edmonton, we were looking for a response game from Matthews in the revenge opportunity back in his own barn. Beyond the shots, goals, and points, it was nice to see Matthews take a piece of McDavid a few times when the opportunity was there to bump #97 and slow him down (one such occasion led to off-setting roughing calls).

The competitive fire from Matthews to answer the bell after a tough game in Edmonton was highly encouraging from the Leafs’ perspective. In the head-to-head matchup against the McDavid line, Matthews’ line controlled over 70% of the expected goals and 69% of the shot attempts, even if the McDavid line did score that one goal against them on the Kane wraparound. The Leafs forced #97 to play on the defensive end of the rink far more often than they did in Edmonton largely thanks to the top line stepping up.

9.   The Oilers nearly made a game of it as the game management even-up calls started to flow from the officials (including a phantom tripping call on Marner), with Leon Draisaitl scoring on the power play to make it 6-4.

Matt Murray made a good save on a nearly identical one-time play by Draisaitl a little bit earlier in the period, but then he let the more stoppable shot past him on this one; Murray’s post-to-post movement was clunky throughout the night.

With that, the strange home/away phenomenon continues for Murray. Despite winning five of his seven starts at the SBA, Murray is sporting just a .883 save percentage on home ice. There was one save at 3-1 that stands out as helping keep the team within striking distance, but the Leafs more won this game in spite of him.

10.    With the 11/7 lineup configuration and the way the game played out, the three most regular forward lines ended up being Kerfoot – Matthews – Marner / Bunting – Tavares – Nylander / ZAR – Kampf – Acciari, with Sheldon Keefe situationally deploying power lines with Nylander next to Matthews and Marner or Tavares with Matthews and Marner.

The stars simply took the game over for the Leafs in that second period, but the fourth line deserves another shoutout for dominating the underlying metrics at five-on-five and also opening the scoring. It feels like it’s been an eternity since the Leafs had a bottom line to hang their hat on with the right mix of role players down there who can also chip in offensively, but there definitely appears to be something worthwhile coming together here now that Noel Acciari is rounding out the unit with ZAR and Kampf.

Acciari was a constant sparkplug in this game, driving the net hard, finishing checks, drawing a penalty (leading to the 6-3 goal), opening the scoring, and also polishing the game off with a good play at the defensive blue line to break up the entry and send it into the empty net with the Oilers’ goalie pulled. You could feel the home fans falling more and more in love with Acciari throughout the night.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts