TORONTO – In a game featuring two high-octane offenses, some of the League's brightest stars and two of the three NHL stars of the past week, the Toronto Maple Leafs managed to make it three in a row Monday night.
Phil Kessel had two goals and an assist as the Leafs extended their winning streak with a 6-3 victory against the Edmonton Oilers at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto has now earned at least a point in six straight contests. For Edmonton, it was its first regulation loss in six games (4-0-1).
The Oilers, who have lived somewhat of a charmed existence over the past couple of games, had bad luck to start their day. Head coach Tom Renney was struck with a puck during the morning practice and required several stitches, rendering him unavailable for the game. Instead, assistant coach Ralph Krueger ran Edmonton's bench.
Edmonton experienced another bad break later on, when the club pulled Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during the third period for precautionary reasons after he aggravated a shoulder injury. He will be re-evaluated on Tuesday.
Tyler Bozak scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal early in the second period. In what seemed like a harmless play, Cam Barker had the puck in his own zone and was looking for an outlet pass, but Bozak was playing Barker close and was able to get enough to steal the puck and flip it over a surprised Devan Dubnyk at 4:15. It was Bozak's 10th goal of the season.
"I was just forechecking hard trying to create a turnover and luckily got a stick over on it and put it in," said the third-year forward of his first game-winning goal this season. "We always want to forecheck hard. We're a fast team and that's something we thrive upon."
The goal came two-and-a-half minutes after Kessel gave Toronto a 3-2 lead 1:45 into the second on his 28th tally of the season. Kessel smartly circled behind the Oilers' net to elude coverage by Nugent Hopkins before being set up to the far side of Dubnyk by Matthew Lombardi, whose slight hesitation before making the pass allowed Kessel to get into position. With the goal, Kessel reached the 300 total career points plateau. He would later add an empty-net goal.
"It was all Lombo (Matthew Lombardi)," said Kessel, who was named third star and finished with a plus-4 rating. "He saw me and made a great pass and it was a pretty easy one – open net."
After Jeff Petry pulled the Oilers within one at 13:24 with his first goal since Nov. 22, Toronto regained a two-goal advantage. Initially thwarted by Dubnyk when trying to finish of a 2-on-1 down low with Mikhail Grabovski, Joffrey Lupul stayed in front of the net. When Dion Phaneuf unleashed a wobbling puck towards the goal, Lupul was able to glove it down and beat Dubnyk for his 21st goal of the season.
Although there was no scoring in the third period, James Reimer had to be sharp, especially with the Oilers pressing early.
"When it gets down to the wire, you are always trying to find the next gear," said Reimer, who finished with 27 saves. "Come the third period, you are up by two, you know that they are gonna come -- especially early to try and get that quick one. You just want to bury down and be ready for anything."
Reimer stopped seven third-period shots and got some help from the goal post once again. Jordan Eberle, who already had two goals on the night, hit the post on a shot that would have cut the Leafs' lead to 5-4.
"I just saw an opening and kept my head up and tried to put it up and it rose a little bit and that could have definitely been a (game) changer," Eberle said.
Eberle opened the scoring just 21 seconds into the first, quickly ending any hopes Reimer had of recording a third straight shutout. Sam Gagner recorded the second assist to continue his torrid pace, as he now has 13 points in his past four games.
"I felt good," said Gagner, whose family -- including his father, former NHLer Dave Gagner -- were in attendance. "I felt like our line, for spurts was good all night, and it's important that we play a full 60 minutes. It's something we can learn from and hopefully get better as we go on here."
Toronto tied the game exactly eight minutes later, when MacArthur fired a quick shot to beat Dubnyk for his 17th goal of the season.
Grabovski continued his consistent play, notching his second point of the night on Toronto's second goal which gave them a temporary 2-1 lead with just over six minutes remaining in the first. He took the puck at the goal line to the right of Reimer and skated down the right wing into the Oilers' zone. After eluding Barker, he circled behind Dubnyk before flipping a short pass to Jake Gardiner, who beat the Oilers' goaltender to the far side. It was Gardiner's second goal of the season. Grabovski, meanwhile, now has 12 points in six games.
The Oilers tied it before the intermission, as Eberle finished off a give-and-go with Petry for his second goal of the night at 17:30. Taylor Hall got the secondary assist and finished the game with two points.
In the late stages of the first, Edmonton thought it had taken the lead, but it was ruled that Ryan Smyth had interfered with Reimer and the goal was called off.
"I thought we had a terrific start and really felt good the way the game was going," Kreuger said. "Shortly after that (no goal call), they take the lead. It changed the character of the game, the personality of the game. Once we went down two, we did give up our defense too much."