A 3-1 lead in the final ten minutes of a hockey game should amount to two points. It didn’t for the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. The Oilers couldn’t hang on against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who scored twice late and then won in overtime to hand the Oilers a stunning 4-3 defeat. It was Edmonton’s fourth straight loss to the Maple Leafs. It was no doubt the most frustrating one.
“That’s the nature of the sport, you want results,” Tyson Barrie said after the defeat. Barrie scored a beautiful goal late in the second period to put the Oilers up by a pair. “We can say we played a good second, or whatever you want, but at the end of the day that’s not the team you want to be where you have a two-goal lead and you give it up with seven minutes left in the third period. Those are games we have to close out.”
The Oilers dominated the second period, responding after Toronto opened the scoring on a fluke goal. Darnell Nurse evened things up, then Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl teamed up to give Edmonton the lead. Barrie converted a Draisaitl pass to make it 3-1 late in the period. Everything was looking up for the Oilers.
Then, the third period happened. Edmonton went into a shell, and the deeper Maple Leafs took over. They scored twice to force overtime, then got a good break to win in the extra frame. When all was said and done, the more polished team made more plays and executed better.
“We didn’t play well enough to win the game,” a frustrated Dave Tippett said after the loss. “We gave up too many chances and we didn’t execute well enough. There’s things we can do a lot better.”
Although the Oilers are angry and frustrated with the loss, not all is negative. At least one core piece believes, even in defeat, that the Oilers learned a valuable lesson on Saturday night. The Maple Leafs? They aren’t unbeatable.
“Of course we can beat that team, there’s no question about it,” Draisaitl said after the defeat, the club’s fourth straight to Toronto. “It’s a good team, we’re a really good team. It’s always tight games. There’s no question in our heads that we can beat them.”
A win on Monday night to salvage a split in the series would go a long way towards proving that point.