Maple Leafs look to capitalize on hard-fought win over Oilers
Eleven goals were scored and key contributors all did their part, but a slapstick altercation between Evander Kane and Michael Bunting was the most entertaining piece of the Maple Leafs’ victory over the Oilers on Saturday night.
Nearly midway through the third period, Edmonton and Toronto’s pepper pots grappled with one another as they skated down the ice. There was a lot of grabbing, hooking and tugging until punches were finally exchanged.
If they had not been wearing helmets, they would have pulled each other’s hair and poked one another in the eye like Curly and Moe before hurling pies on the way to the penalty box.
By then the Maple Leafs were well on their way to a 7-4 triumph that avenged a lopsided loss in Alberta 10 days prior. Kane was in ill-humour; earlier Bunting had been whistled for an Oscar-worthy embellishment penalty.
Both ended up with double roughing infractions, but Bunting’s team captured the two points that were on the line.
He is a master at drawing penalties – the most in the NHL going on two years now – as well as the ire of his opponents.
“He likes to dive and embellish,” Kane said afterward, as aggrieved as if he had been kissed on the cheek by Brad Marchand. “You want to get that out of the game, but [the referees] prevent guys from the consequences of those actions.
“Fighting is a great deterrent for those type of players. He’s a perfect example of that.”
To which on Sunday Bunting smiled and shrugged as if the comment didn’t bother him.
“I don’t really care to be honest,” the Toronto forward said following practice at the Ford Performance Centre. “I am not going to lose sleep over it.
“I just stick to my game. I play every shift hard. I try not to let things bug me out there. I am moving on from it.”
It was a good win for the Maple Leafs, who play three more times at Scotiabank Arena this week. The Buffalo Sabres are in town on Monday, the Colorado Avalanche come calling on Wednesday and the Carolina Hurricanes pay a visit on Friday.
Toronto has had its way with the Sabres so far this season but they are usually more of a bother. Colorado and Carolina each poses a major challenge.
Edmonton, which holds down the first wildcard position in the Western Conference, did as well. It jumped out to a 3-1 lead but then did Oilers things that turned into a 5-3 deficit in fewer than six minutes.
“We had self-inflicted mistakes that cost us the game,” Kane said.
At times, Edmonton is as electrifying as a trapeze act. At others, it is just a tiny slip away from a major mishap.
For value’s sake, fans got their money’s worth. Connor McDavid scored his league-leading 55th goal and had two assists. Leon Draisaitl scored his 42nd, tied for fourth-most in the NHL.
Noel Acciari and John Tavares each scored twice for the home team, Tavares has 30 now. Auston Matthews got his 30th for the seventh year in a row. Mitch Marner had the best night of all – one goal and four points.
Neither Toronto’s Matt Murray nor Stuart Skinner did much to distinguish themselves in the net, but at least Murray buckled down to allow his team to mount a comeback.
“The game was probably over if it got to 4-1,” Sheldon Keefe, the Maple Leafs head coach, said Sunday. “Matt held his ground. You can’t give up anymore if you want to come back.”
Murray will get a second straight start on Monday versus Buffalo.
Toronto is 40-17-8 and second in the Atlantic Division behind the high-flying Bruins. On Saturday, Boston became the first team to clinch a berth in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs and the fastest club in NHL history to reach the 50-win mark in a season.
The Sabres are desperately clinging to hopes for the postseason.
“I didn’t love the first period on my part on Saturday but I felt better as the game went on and I settled in,” Murray said. “The team did a heck of a job in the second period.
“That’s where it could have flipped either way.”
The even-keeled Tavares was assessed a $5,000 fine on Sunday – that is the most allowed – for slashing Vincent Desharnais across the wrist in the third period. The slash was a retaliation for a cross-check by the Edmonton defenceman.
It was deserved but not in the Kane/Bunting category.
“He is a competitor,” Tavares said of his teammate. “He plays with a lot of emotion. We love him.”
Player grades: Edmonton Oilers survive scrambly affair in Arizona, pull out 5-4 win – Edmonton Journal
Edmonton Oilers travel regimen on Monday night: take the two points and get the heck out of Dodge.
It was a scrambly affair in cramped Mullett Arena, where a clear majority of the 4,600 spectators seemed to be rooting for the visiting team. For the second time in the last week, the Oilers were in tough to shake the pesky Coyotes. This time they managed to get the job done in regulation, but not without a few nervous moments down the stretch as Arizona pressed but failed to overcome Edmonton’s 5-4 lead.
The Oilers had seemed fully in control with a 4-2 lead after a dominant second period, but that went away in the first 5 minutes of the third. The Oilers managed just a single Grade A shot in that final frame, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins buried that shot on the powerplay to put them back in front by the enventual winning margin.
If the stats are to be believed, this was a stolen win by the Oilers, who were outshot 33-29 and on the short end of Grade A shots by a 19-13 margin, including 10-6 in 5-alarm shots (running count). In each player’s comment we’ll record his individual contributions to Grade A shots (GAS) at both ends of the sheet.
#2 Evan Bouchard, 7. Strong on the attack. Scored the 2-2 goal at even strength on an excellent shot, later set up the game winner on the powerplay with a one-timer that created a dangerous rebound. Perhaps his best play was a lovely delayed stretch pass that sent his partner Ekholm in on a breakaway. Not your standard D-to-D pass. Did have a couple of adventures on defence, wandering way out of position and getting burned for a breakaway that Campbell stopped, later losing a battle in the low slot that resulted in the 4-4. Now has 12 points in 13 games since the big trade on Feb 28. GAS: +3/-4.
#5 Cody Ceci, 4. His lost battle was a key element on the second Arizona tally. Otherwise largely held his own. GAS: +0/-1.
#10 Derek Ryan, 5. Quiet night with 0 shots and just 1/6=17% on the dot. Decent on the penalty kill. GAS: +0/-1.
#14 Mattias Ekholm, 7. Played a team-high 24:56 on what was the club’s most effective pairing. Unlucky that the second Arizona goal caromed in off him. Burned on another ‘yotes chance when his hard clearing pass hit a sign on the boards and just died, one of many funky bounces in the old barn Arizona now calls home. Won more than his share of battles, including a couple that set up McDavid’s 2 best chances of the game, both in the first period. Robbed on a breakaway of his own on a full stretch stop by Karel Vejmelka. Also robbed of an assist on Draisaitl’s goal when his pass was deflected from its intended recipient directly to the goal scorer, without possession ever being achieved. Played 24:58 to lead both teams, including 23:01 at even strength. Excellent shot shares. GAS: +4/-4.
#18 Zach Hyman, 6. His biggest contribution was finishing off a 5-way passing play just 6 seconds into Edmonton’s first powerplay to tie the game 1-1. Another great chance off a Nurse feed, but couldn’t bury. A couple of issues in defensive coverage. GAS: +2/-3.
#19 Devin Shore, 4. Scoreless in almost 10 minutes, not a bad outcome. Not his best night handling the puck, though. GAS: +0/-0
#21 Klim Kostin, 6. A decent shot on net, a couple of shot blocks, a couple of hits, and a positive influence overall. GAS: +1/-0.
#25 Darnell Nurse, 6. His big moment was scoring the shorthanded goal that gave the Oilers their first lead, joining the rush as a trailer, taking Yamamoto’s drop pass, and overpowering Vejmelka with a wrist shot. Made a great pass to Hyman for another 5-alarm shot. Allowed an outside shot on the sequence that resulted in Arizona’s third goal, and was a better door than window in screening Campbell on a couple of other shots (both stopped). 4 shots, 2 blocks. GAS: +2/-4.
#26 Mattias Janmark, 6. Started the game on the McDavid line, but soon moved down to a bottom-6 trio with Bjugstad and Foegele which was highly effective. Did get burned on a bad pinch on the first Arizona goal, but made up for it with a strong charge to the net front as a decoy on Nurse’s shorty. GAS: +2/-1.
#27 Brett Kulak, 5. His pairing with Desharnais had its struggles at even strength and were badly outshot (+3/-10 in Kulak’s 14 minutes at 5v5), and were dominated in Grade A shots. Managed to saw off 0-0 where it mattered most. Kulak mustered a couple of shots, a hit and a takeaway. GAS: +0/-4.
#29 Leon Draisaitl, 7. Entered the game tied with McDavid and Kane, each with 299 goals. Won the race to 300 when he scored on his only official shot of the game, surprising Vejmelka with a quick-release outside shot through traffic. This after finding iron on a great look from the slot on his previous shift. Set up the game winner by teeing up Bouchard’s one-timer in the third. Also won the powerplay faceoff that led directly to Oilers’ first goal, whough no point awarded on that one. Now up to 46-68-114 on the season, 26 points behind McDavid but 12 clear of third-place Nikita Kucherov. Led the Oilers with 2 blocked shots and with 13/23=57% on the faceoff dot. GAS: +5/-6.
#36 Jack Campbell, 5. Another frenetic night that saw him allow at least 4 goals in his seventh straight start. On the bright side, his teammates have scored at least 4 in his last sixteen starts, and once again on this night scored 1 more than they gave up. Campbell was beaten by a pair of first-period deflections, both of which found a hole between his arm and body. His bigger problem was rebound control, with numerous pucks trampolining off of him back into the slot or in unexpected directions that left him scrambling. This proved especially costly on the third Arizona goal, and arguably the fourth as well. Did face 19 Grade A shots (4 of them off his own bad rebounds) and came up with a number of good stops. Stiffened down the stretch and managed to contain the puck for a couple of key stoppages in the late going. 33 shots, 29 saves, .879 save percentage.
#37 Warren Foegele, 7. Another strong game with dominant shot shares (+13/-3 in shot attempts, +7/-1 in actual shots) on a strong trio with Bjugstad and Janmark. His fine pass to Bouchard was buried for the 2-2. Now had 13 points in his last 19 games. 3 shots on net, the best a quick wraparound that nearly cashed. GAS: +3/-0.
#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 5. Quiet game with 0 shots and 0 hits. Whiffed entirely on his best look, wasting a nice set up by Ekholm. Did find a way to contribute with a nice rush and pass to Nurse on the penalty kill that resulted in the 3-2 goal. GAS: +2/-0.
#72 Nick Bjugstad, 7. Became one of the first NHLers to experience Mullett Arena as both a home and away player. Certainly looked right at home with a very strong effort. Skated extremely well. Earned a secondary assist on the Bouchard goal. Fired 3 shots of his own (6 attempts) and also landed 3 hits, with a takeaway and a block and 5/10=50% on the dot. GAS: +2/-2.
#73 Vincent Desharnais, 4. Had his struggles in this one. Managed to saw off 0-0 at evens, despite being penned in his own end for much of his 12 even strength minutes. Was in the box for the Arizona powerplay goal, albeit for something of a ticky-tack holding penalty. GAS: +0/-5.
#91 Evander Kane, 4. Skated better, producing 5 shot attempts (2 on net). Involved in the physical aspect, landing a team-high 4 hits. But all too frequently, the play died on his stick. Directly caused a too-many-men penalty when he chose to play the puck right at the player’s gate, even as his replacement had already taken the ice. Screened his own goalie and very likely deflected in the second Arizona goal. No points and -2 on the night. Now a dismal dash-9 on the season, the only current Oiler in red figures. GAS: +2/-3.
#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 7. Scored 1-1-2, doing all of that damage on the powerplay. His fine cross-seam pass to McDavid set the stage for the 1-1, while he took care of business himself cashing the 5-4 from the edge of the crease. That stood up as the game-winner. A couple of hiccups in the defensive zone but nothing costly. GAS: +4/-1.
#97 Connor McDavid, 5. A couple of early chances, and a great pass to Hyman on the PP for the 1-1, his 140th (!!!) point of the season. Gradually had less impact as the game went on. Beaten on the 4-3 when he wasn’t quite able to cut out the shot. Did land a couple of heavy hits and held his own on the dot at 7/13=54%. GAS: +3/-2.
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FTB: The Maple Leafs clinch – Pension Plan Puppets
It’s always fun when your team clinches without doing anything. The Maple Leafs were at home last night when the news broke that because some other team won or lost, they were officially in the playoffs.
So now that’s out of the way, the Leafs play the waiting game, oh and also eight more regular season games, one of which is against the Lightning, which will be the most interesting to watch, while for the others we simply hope no one is injured.
The next game is tomorrow against the Panthers here in Toronto.
We’re moving to our new home soon. You can sign up for early access here:
But don’t worry, you can also get in after we move on the weekend.
Hockey Canada rules 2018 junior players ineligible for international competition pending investigation – CBC
The statement comes hours after a parliamentary committee unanimously passed a motion ordering Hockey Canada to hand over a report from an investigation into the 2018 allegations.
Who are the top candidates for NHL coach, GM jobs? – ESPN
[SPECIES: ESPN reports that Maple Leafs assistant coach Craig Carberry is a hot commodity in the NHL coaching market.]
Voit’s playmaking skills put him in Sting’s record book – Observer
Ty Voit is so crafty with the puck, he keeps his own teammates guessing what he’s about to do.
[SPECIES: OK I cannot resist the pun on the Sarnia Sting and that headline so here we go:
[music] Every single day
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching Voit]
Now to be extra sure I have a 1980’s Sting song stuck in your head all day… here you go! Have a nice Tuesday.
Maple Leafs clinch playoff berth with Panthers loss to Senators
The Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday.
The Maple Leafs (44-20-9), who clinched when the Florida Panthers lost 5-2 to the Ottawa Senators, are second in the Atlantic Division, 22 points behind the Boston Bruins and seven ahead of the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning.
It’s the seventh straight season Toronto has clinched a playoff berth. It hasn’t won a postseason series since 2004.
The Maple Leafs are led by forwards Mitchell Marner (94 points), William Nylander (81), Auston Matthews (77), and John Tavares (75). Ilya Samsonov is 24-9-3 with a 2.46 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and three shutouts in 36 games (35 starts). Matt Murray is 14-8-2 with a 2.97 GAA, .905 save percentage and one shutout in 25 games.
Toronto made several moves prior to the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline on March 3, acquiring forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 17, defenseman Jake McCabe and forward Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 27, defenseman Erik Gustafsson from the Washington Capitals on Feb. 28 and defenseman Luke Schenn from the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 28.
O’Reilly is expected back before the playoffs begin April 17. He hasn’t played since getting hit in the hand by Matthews’ shot in the second period of a 4-1 loss at the Vancouver Canucks on March 4 and was projected to be out four weeks.
The Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup 11 times, once each as the Toronto Arenas (1917-18) and the Toronto St. Patricks (1921-22). They are without an NHL championship since 1967.
First Citizens acquires troubled Silicon Valley Bank – CP24
Player grades: Edmonton Oilers survive scrambly affair in Arizona, pull out 5-4 win – Edmonton Journal
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