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Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Day After: Will the Oilers ever beat the Leafs again?

After a week off, it’s no surprise the Edmonton Oilers came out looking a little rusty to start last night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite a second period surge that saw the Oilers build a 3-1 lead, it was squandered in after some bad bounces.

Toronto’s first goal somehow saw the puck get aerial and quite literally bounce off the top of Mike Smith’s head and into the back of the net. The game winning goal in overtime to secure the Leafs their 4-3 win was no different.

Twice the puck bounced before sneaking past Mike Smith, who despite allowing four goals, kept the Oilers in the game all night long.

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“As a group we could play better,” said head coach Dave Tippett after the game. there’s some situation especially in the first we didn’t handle the puck well, didn’t support each other well. we need to play better.”

It’s somehow fitting a weird week in the NHL for the Oilers that saw three games against the Montreal Canadiens get cancelled would end the way it did with last night’s loss. Because of course the Leafs would win off the backs of two fluky goals.

Say what you will about the Edmonton Oilers of the past, but the Oilers of today haven’t often lost these kinds of games. This season when leading after two period the Oilers had a 16-1 record coming into tonight’s game, the fifth best record in the NHL.

So for these Oilers, last night’s loss is more of a one off than anything. But that’s not to say Edmonton doesn’t have more work to be done. The Oilers did play a sloppy first period, while in the third, a neutral zone turnover and a too much puck watching cost them two goals against.

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“We can say we played a good second, but at the end of the day, that’s not the team we want to be where you have a two goal lead and give it up with seven minutes left,” said defenceman Tyson Barrie. “Those are games we have to learn to close out.”

It’s hard to not think “will the Oilers ever beat the Leafs again?” but they will. No matter how you cut it, the Oilers haven’t exactly looked horrible in any of the games (except maybe the 6-1 game) and have kept them competitive. Edmonton now falls to 2-5-1 against the Leafs on the season and are now three points back from the top spot in the North Divsion. They’ll have a chance to close that gap quickly with the two teams squaring off again Monday night.

Backhanders…

  • I’m not sure how big of a fan I am of the Oilers running Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid on the same line. Don’t get me wrong, they’re wildly successful when together and were involved in all three of the Oilers goals last night. But the rest of the Oilers forward group struggled last night. None of the second through fourth lines were positive in either shot attempts or expected goals. The Oilers are a better, deeper team when they have Draisaitl and McDavid apart from each other and come Monday, they should split the pair up.
  • Credit where it’s due, Mike Smith had a solid game for Edmonton. The first goal of the game was a total fluke, one that literally bounced off the top of his head, while the final goal bounced off the skate of Darnell Nurse and past Smith. He continues to look 29, rather than 39, and I keep waiting to see a drop off in his game like we did last year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get another start Monday.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]