GDB 62.0 Wrap Up: The Mattias Ekholm era kicks off with 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing30 days ago
Maple Leafs? More like Maple Leaves, am I right?! Final score: 5-2 Oilers.
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He’s here, and he’s perfect. Mattias Ekholm is an Edmonton Oiler and boy, what an Oiler he is. His skill set was on display in front of a massive crowd at Rogers Place, and he made his impact felt in the Oilers’ 5-2 win. More on Ekholm later.
For the Oilers, it marked their first regulation win over the Maple Leafs at home since February 11th, 2016, when a Jordan Eberle hat trick and two Connor McDavid goals propelled them to a 5-2 victory. Since then the Leafs had gone 9-0-1 against the Oilers, with their OT loss coming on Jan. 30, 2021 when McDavid’s winner giving them a 4-3 win.
And on Wednesday night, it was McDavid once again helping spring the Oilers to victory. I mean, what more can you say? He opened the game’s scoring finding a loose puck on the powerplay just 3:49 into the game and then he scored the Oilers’ second of the game at the 13:53 mark of that same frame. This one, however, was a thing of beauty. The Leafs turned the puck over in the neutral zone and the puck bounced off Klim Kostin right to the Oilers’ captain. He walked into the offensive zone, made a quick move, and rifled home his 52nd of the season.
Sandwiched between McDavid’s goals was a brutal defensive zone play from Cody Ceci. It appeared the Leafs had went offside at the Oilers’ blueline, but no whistle was blown and Ceci was incredibly soft against some Toronto forecheckers on the half wall. It resulted in him coughing up the puck to Mitch Marner and David Kampf finding the back of the net.
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With another two-goal performance from McDavid, meanwhile, he became the fifth player in NHL history to have 2+ goals in five straight games. The four others are Mario Lemieux (11 goals over five games between Oct. 15 – Oct. 25, 1988), Alexander Mogilny (13 goals over five games between Dec. 23, 1992 and Jan. 3, 1993), Joe Malone (16 goals over six games between Feb. 12 – Feb. 28, 1921) and Punch Broadbent (14 goals over six games between Jan. 14 – Feb. 1, 1922).
Back to tonight, however, as the Oilers didn’t once let up. To be frank, they looked like a team who had just gotten a big boost by way of trade. Zach Hyman would extend the Oilers’ lead to 3-1 by the end of the first in thanks to a pass from Ekholm, and the floodgates opened. Kailer Yamamoto and Klim Kostin would add goals of their own, while Evan Bouchard and Warren Foegele each had one called back. Bouchard scored on a clean shot, but McDavid interfered with a Leafs defenceman. Foegele, meanwhile, fell victim to a quick whistle from a referee.
The game was capped off in the third period by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, of all people, getting into a fight. With a little under nine minutes left in the game, Maple Leafs defenceman Justin Holl laid a cheap hit on Yamamoto catching the winger with a shoulder in the head. Nugent-Hopkins was having none of it heading right over to Holl, dropping the mitts, and absolutely filling him in. You can see the fight here in thanks to our friends at hockeyfights.
Back to Ekholm…
What a debut performance from him. He looked everything and more for the Edmonton Oilers. He skating was smooth and he did a great job not only defending at the blue line and in the Oilers’ zone, but breaking the puck out, too. He had a tremendous breakout pass from the Oilers blueline getting the puck on the tape of McDavid in stride before Bouchard’s goal was called back. It’s exactly what the Oilers were looking for in a defenceman. To top it off, the Oilers powerplay went 1/4 with McDavid converting on the Oilers’ first attempt.
Ekholm slid into the lineup without a single practice and looked sharp. With him on the ice at 5×5, the Oilers controlled just 44.83 percent of the shot attempts (13-16), but controlled 53.85 percent of the shots on goal (7-6), 69.52 percent of the expected goal share and outscored the Leafs 2-0. His 17:04 at 5×5 was fourth among Oilers, and second among defencemen behind Darnell Nurse’s 19:07.
The Oilers won’t play again ahead of Friday afternoon’s 1:00 p.m. MST trade deadline before taking on the Winnipeg Jets that night at home six hours later. It’ll give Mattias Ekholm more time to acclimate and Ken Holland and Co. more time to tweak the lineup.
According to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, the Oilers are still looking to add. It’ll be fascinating to see what happens in the next 40-odd hours.
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@example.com.
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