Leafs Grind Out Point, End Alberta Trip with 3-0-1 Record

The Toronto Maple Leafs nearly completed a perfect road trip but maintained their spot atop the NHL North Division
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EDMONTON — The Toronto Maple Leafs fell just short of completing a four-game sweep in Alberta.

Connor McDavid stood in the way.

"It's always a challenge going up against that amount of speed coming right at you," Auston Matthews said.

McDavid scored two goals, including the overtime winner and assisted on another as the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Maple Leafs 4-3.

Having just completed their 10th game in 18 days, the Maple Leafs picked up seven out of a possible eight points. Fatigue appeared to be a factor initially as the Maple Leafs didn't have their legs underneath them to start. 

An early mistake from defenseman Mikko Lehtonen resulted in a scoring chance for the Oilers in the first period. Edmonton forward Tyler Ennis was awarded a penalty shot at 3:34 when Lehtonen put his hand on the puck on the goal line.

Ennis missed on his penalty shot opportunity, but his team opened the scoring when they caught Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly pinching a bit too deep in the Oilers' zone. Dominik Kahun picked up his own rebound on the rush and gave the Oilers their first goal at 11:28.

Toronto had just one shot on goal from in front of the net in the opening frame and they took advantage of the opportunity. William Nylander picked up the puck on a turnover created by teammate John Tavares and tied the game 1-1 at 17:46.

The Oilers reclaimed the lead when Josh Archibald got the inside line on Leafs defenseman Justin Holl and received a pass from McDavid from behind the net to beat Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen for a 2-1 advantage at 19:46.

Through 10 games, that was Toronto's worst 5-on-5 possession in an opening 20 minutes this season as measured by Corsi percentage (41). It was just the second game this season where they logged a rate under 50 in the opening period. That other instance occurred in the first game of the road trip in a 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames.

McDavid scored his first goal of the game in the second period with a trademark coast-to-coast rush. He cut through three oppsing players in Toronto's zone before beating Andersen to make it 3-1 Edmonton at 6:13.

Matthews responded for Toronto just 1:55 later when he received a touch pass from Mitch Marner and beat Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen with a wide-angle shot to cut Edmonton's lead to 3-2.

The Leafs tied the game on the power play when Zach Hyman put in a rebound from John Tavares' shot at 9:16. 

Toronto has scored at least one power-play goal in nine of their ten games this season. It is their best string of power-play goal scoring to begin a season since they scored in all of their first 10 games of the 2005-06 season.

The success with the man advantage has been attributed to new assistant coach Manny Malhotra.

Brought in to replace the departed Paul McFarland, the power-play has focused on having two defined units with a heavy net presence and a mixing in of different players from time to time.

"He felt confidently enough that that's what he wanted to go with and I supported him in that," Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of Malhotra. "It's really been his vision and he's leading the way in communication with the players, he's given them great ownership of it in seeking their input and also having them feel empowered to go out and use their skills within the structure that he's provided."

Lehtonen picked up his first NHL point by picking up the second assist. He was limited to just 9:09 of ice time.

"I think he still doesn't look comfortable," Keefe said. "He's played two of the last three games and given him the opportunity. With the break we'll continue to work with him."

With timing winding down in regulation, the Oilers broke in for a 2-on-1 rush, but Andersen got his arm up and robbed Archibald of a goal.

McDavid scored his second goal of the night in overtime to seal a win for Edmonton.

After every game, the Leafs have stressed they have a lot of areas that need improvement. Given the condensed schedule, the team hasn't had a lot of time digest their results. 

At 7-2-1 after 10 games, the Maple Leafs are at the top of the standing. Perhaps that is in line with expectations given the strength of opponents. 

But now the Leafs enter their most extended break of the season as their next game won't take place until Thursday at home to the Vancouver Canucks.

Although the power play has been effective, their penalty kill ranks 20th in the NHL and their 5-on-5 play needs some refinement.

Toronto will have a day off on Sunday and then players who are banged up or have logged a lot of minutes will be asked to take Monday off as well.

"I don't think we've scratched the surface of the best that we can play, collectively as a team," Matthews said. "I think that's encouraging as we go on in the season, knowing we can play a lot better but that we're still getting points."

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