The match between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers was expected to be a showcase of the league’s greatest offensive stars in Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, Connor McDavid, and Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl, but the game turned out to be a strange contest that featured bouncing pucks, missed chances, an own goal, and head-scratching penalty calls.
Auston Matthews scored in the third period to tie the game after Kailer Yamamoto got credit for the first period marker that resulted from a clearing attempt from Jimmy Vesey that went off the skate of Jake Muzzin past Frederik Andersen. The tie lasted less than three minutes, as Draisaitl’s power play goal gave Edmonton the lead for good in a 3-1 loss at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday.
Toronto was unable to generate any real quality scoring chances on an Oilers squad that has been challenged defensively so far and produced only 26 shots on struggling Edmonton goalie Mikko Koskinen.
“I thought defensively we didn’t really expose ourselves until the third period – we started giving up some chances when we were really pressing, but I didn’t like our game at all today.” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “I thought we were really slow, disjointed, didn’t play with enough pace to generate any sort of sustained pressure or offense. Couldn’t draw power plays, took some careless penalties ourselves and that ends up being the difference in the game. A bad bounce and a penalty we couldn’t kill that caught up with us in the third.”
The focus after the game was the status of Joe Thornton, who was hit along the boards by Oilers forward Josh Archibald in the third period and did not return. Thornton appeared to be injured in the rib area and after the game, Keefe indicated that the veteran forward would miss some time, but that the extent of the injury was unknown.
"No update other than he won't be available (on Friday)," Keefe said after practice on Thursday. "And as I said last night, it looks like he's going to miss some time. It's not a day-to-day thing at this point, but we don't have a final update or diagnosis at this stage."
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun said that Thornton will have an MRI on Thursday to determine the extent of the injury. Matthews made a brief appearance at practice and then left the ice at the Ford Performance Centre on Thursday. Keefe said that Matthews was not feeling well after the game and his status for the rematch against Edmonton is in question.
The absences forced a reshuffling of the lines and pairings, as defenseman Mikko Lehtonen was demoted to the practice squad to make room for forward replacements Adam Brooks and Joey Anderson. Zach Hyman joined John Tavares and William Nylander on the top line, Brooks skated between Jimmy Vesey and Mitch Marner, Wayne Simmonds moved up to the checking line with Alex Kerfoot and Ilya Mikheyev, and the fourth line was made up of Alexander Barabanov, Pierre Engvall and Jason Spezza.
*******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******