Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS
The Oilers were visiting the Air Canada Center tonight for Connor McDavid’s first game in his hometown of Toronto.
Lines for the game were:
Toronto got off to a hot start, with Nazem Kadri scoring early on a beautiful feed from Connor Brown. The Leafs’ shutdown unit, Kadri’s line, was impressive to start and forced Todd McLellan to break up McDavid’s line very early on, albeit only temporarily. Kadri was an agitating force that we love, causing both Lucic and Kassian to start focusing more on him than the hockey game.
The Oilers ended up following up before the end of the 1st period, on an effective dump in play by their 4th line. The puck goes in an area where neither Polak or Andersen can get to it, and then Gardiner is left with no real options but to guess where the puck is going. He chose the man heading for the puck, but it ends up being thrown in front by Tyler Pitlick, and Anton Lander buries it.
Near the start of the period, the Leafs’ 4th line answered by causing a turnover in the Oilers’ zone, and a another gorgeous feed by a rookie, this time Nikita Soshnikov, leads to a goal by Ben Smith.
McDavid’s speed has been very noticeable in this game, getting space in between the Leafs’ defense.
Midway through the second period, on a delayed penalty, Bozak very nearly scores but for an excellent pair of saves by Cam Talbot.
Bad refereeing began to take over as the 2nd period was coming to a close. A couple bad calls against both teams (Lander’s soft roughing call, Kadri’s reputation-based embellishment call) and then a couple misses left a bad taste in my mouth.
The third period started relatively uneventfully, and carried that way until midway through. Darnell Nurse created some space for himself and floated a puck into the top corner that Andersen just didn’t see. Andersen had been having a pretty good game other than chasing a puck he couldn’t get to, but that shot was too soft to be excusable.
The teams exchanged chances as the 3rd period continued, but no scoring was to be. Off to OT we went.
And what a quick finish it was from there! Nazem Kadri pushes off of McDavid for a breakaway goal for a game winner. A questionable no-call, but it’s overtime. These things have slid by in the past.
This game was a mess for Tyler Bozak’s line overall, but otherwise, the Leafs were very good. Andersen especially was good, saving over 40 shots, despite a couple mistakes. The Leafs were able to effectively shut down McDavid, and had enough offense on their side to take the game.
Nikita Soshnikov had a questionable hit in this game on Benoit Pouliot, and I won’t be surprised if it gets looked at by NHL player safety. A suspension wouldn’t surprise me either.
My three stars for the night:
- Nazem Kadri (2 goals)
- Frederik Andersen (95.65 save%)
- Connor Brown (1 assist)