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William Nylander takes team lead in points as Maple Leafs beat Oilers 4-2

Way to go, Willy!

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 5: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his goal against the Edmonton Oilers with teammate John Tavares #91 during the first period at the Scotiabank Arena on January 5, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 thanks to goals from John Tavares, TJ Brodie, and Ilya Mikheyev, who extended his ppg streak to three games. Alex Kerfoot got the empty-netter. William Nylander finished the night with two primary points (one of which should’ve been a goal). Jack Campbell stopped 28 of 30 shots in the win, while Mike Smith gave up three goals on 32 shots in the loss.

It was a dominant game from the Leafs on the shot clock at least. Not a perfect game by any means, but they were better than the Oilers from start to finish despite the odd rally against.

The Leafs also seemed to have the book on Mike Smith as they chose to shoot for the scrum or deflection, resulting in both goals in the first period. Not only did it get Smith moving laterally (which he does way too much), but it also helped get more point shots through as they didn’t need to be directed right at the net. As a result, the heat map showed lots of shots in and around the net.

The Oilers put on a rally at the end of the game, but it was too little, too late at that point as the Leafs — yes, the Leafs — locked it down.

First Period

1-0

Willy! The Oilers were trying to head up the ice after dropping Tavares at the side of the net after a battle, but Alex “Mark Stone” Kerfoot made a clever move to steal the puck from the Oilers. Nylander, who was tracking back, was able to pick up the puck and fire a shot towards the net for Tavares. The puck was likely intended as a shot-pass or seeking a deflection from Tavares, but what it did do was push Mike Smith all the way out of his net. As the puck bounced back towards the crease, it deflected off the back of Smith’s pad and in. The goal was initially credited to Tavares, but he might have never touched the puck. Either way, thanks, Smith!

Tavares was buzzing around the net the whole period. He got himself another chance around the halfway mark on a rush.

1-1

Brendan Perlini tied the game on a rush where he was completely uncovered. Sandin had pinched at the blueline to try and keep the puck in, which is fine, that’s how the Leafs operate. The problem came when Ritchie got completely beat by Perlini on the footrace to the front of the net. He started at the red line and nearly got passed by Sandin, who was stationary and pivoting at the offensive blue line by the time Perlini got to the net. I guess that’s what you can expect from your 13th forward.

1-2

Kailer Yamamoto made a great pass to Leon Draisaitl on a 2-on-1 down low to give the Oilers their first lead of the game. Rielly did what he could, but there’s not much you can do against those players when three guys got beat in the corner.

2-2

Mitch! In the dying moments of the period, the Leafs top unit tied the game. Brodie took a point shot through a maze of bodies that included Marner and Bouchard’s legs. Once again, it was going wide and aiming for Matthews and Marner in front of the net rather than directly at Mike Smith. Officially, Matthews and Nylander got the two assists on Brodie’s goal, but I think that will be changed to Marner from Brodie and Matthews.

After One

While it may not have looked like it, it was a dominant period from the Leafs. They led the Oilers 23-15 in shot attempts (60%), and had the same ratio in expected goals. Despite my eye-test telling me the Leafs were shooting from the outside a fair bit, the shot map ended up showing a lot of chances in front of the net, meaning lots of rebounds and deflections.

Second Period

The Oilers got the first power play of the game when Tyler Benson chicken-winged his arm and dragged Kämpf’s stick down, drawing a tripping call. The power play of Draisaitl and Friends didn’t get anything done. Campbell made one save.

Matthews, Tavares, and Nylander had a fun post-power play shift, but Nylander made one pass too many on a nice passing play started with his forecheck and Tavares’ recovery and it didn’t turn into anything. You could hear him swear on the mic as he went to the bench.

The post-penalty kill was a masterclass in Leafs offense. They completely dominated the Oilers and drew a penalty thanks to Michael Bunting. Marner nearly scored in the final seconds of the power play but he rang his shot under the glove directly off the post and out.

And then this happened the other way. Muzzin turned the puck over after taking a bit of a risky pass from Campbell behind the net. At this point, Campbell was way out of the net and immediately started swimming as Ryan McLeod tried to bury the puck around him. On the bright side, the Leafs skaters seem well-versed in Campbell leaving the net at this point and covered up the net with their bodies to block the shots.

Nylander nearly got his third point of the night on another breakaway, but he was stopped by the blocker of Smith.

After Two

And after all that action, we exited the second period without another goal. The Leafs still carried at 60% majority in shot share and expected goals, although the second was less busy compared to the first.

Also: baby talk

Third Period

Draisaitl got three shots on Campbell to start the third after turnovers from the Muzzin-Holl pairing. I really think Muzzin could use someone less risky than Holl, namely Liljegren. Settle the game down, let Liljegren break the puck out, because at this point neither Muzzin nor Holl can do it reliably.

Matthews had his own chances in the early parts of the period, including a slick dangle to the right side of the net and this shot-pass attempt for Marner.

After a bit of a struggle to get the puck out of the defensive zone, the third line came out on the ice, and battled to keep the puck in the offensive zone for a shift. They didn’t get close to scoring, but winning a shift like that is exactly what the Leafs needed so the rest of the roster could take a deep breath.

On the next offensive zone shift, Tavares drew a penalty, this time on Bouchard.

3-2

Ilya Mikheyev again! His third goal in as many games to start this season and yet another goal on the power play! Seriously, how???

Kerfoot nearly had the insurance goal, but his breakaway shot went off the post.

4-2

The Oilers put the pressure on in the final minute, but they couldn’t convert on anything until Kerfoot eventually iced it for the Leafs. He got the insurance goal eventually.