Connolly ended a 17-game dry spell when he scored 1:39 into overtime to give Toronto a 4-3 victory against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Wednesday night, ending the Maple Leafs' losing streak at four games.
The Oilers overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to force overtime on Jordan Eberle's goal with 4:04 left in regulation and had a chance to win in the extra period when they came on a 3-on-1 break. But Dion Phaneuf raced back to pick Ryan Whitney's pocket and start a 3-on-1 the other way. Joffrey Lupul carried up the left side and put the puck on Connolly's stick for a tap-in.
"That was a huge win for us," said Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner, whose goal early in the third period put the Leafs ahead 3-2. "You don't lose four games in a row all that often and when you do it's not a great feeling. That fifth game means a lot and I'm happy we got it."
The win gives the Leafs 64 points, three more than ninth-place Washington in the scramble for playoff berths in the Eastern Conference, and a split of two games in Alberta -- they lost 5-1 at Calgary on Tuesday. Toronto has two days off before wrapping up a Western Canada trip Saturday in Vancouver.
"That last game was a tough one to swallow," Leafs defenseman Cody Franson said. "This was a big game for us as a result. It was kind of a must-have two points after the way our last four have gone. We battled hard to get the points tonight."
Edmonton had its four-game winning streak at Rexall Place snapped, though the Oilers did get a point in a game they trailed 2-0 before many of the 16,839 fans had found their seats.
"When we've got multiple lines going like we did tonight, we're a dangerous team," Eberle said. "We need that to happen more often."
The Leafs broke a 2-2 tie at 6:46 of the third period, 10 seconds into their second power play of the night. With Ryan Jones off for delay of game after flipping the puck into the crowd, Gardiner teed up a straightaway slapper from just inside the blue line and fired it through a screen past Nikolai Khabibulin for his third of the season.
But Eberle capped nearly a minute of pressure when he took a feed from Whitney, battled through David Steckel's check and stepped into the slot before wristing his 25th of the season over James Reimer's glove and just under the crossbar.
The Oilers got a power play with 2:06 left in regulation when Darryl Boyce was called for hooking Taylor Hall as Hall drove to the net, but were unable to capitalize.
"We had a slow start but came back hard and played a good game," said Oilers' forward Ben Eager, who scored Edmonton's first goal. We had our chances to win, but unfortunately couldn't convert."
With supporters in the full house at Rexall Place chanting "Go Leafs Go," Toronto needed just 40 seconds to make them happy by grabbing a 1-0 lead. Lupul grabbed a loose puck and wristed it past Khabibulin after the Oilers were unable to clear the zone.
It became 2-0 just 58 seconds later when Franson fired a long pass from his own zone that caught Matthew Lombardi in full flight during a bad change by the Edmonton defense. Lombardi raced in and wristed a shot past Khabibulin for his seventh of the season and a 2-0 lead for the Leafs just 1:38 into the game.
But before the Leafs could enjoy their two-goal margin, half of it disappeared. The Oilers forechecked hard, Lennart Petrell beat his man and centered a pass into the slot, where Eager ripped it past Reimer at 2:32.
Both teams had chances during the rest of the period, which ended with the Leafs up 2-1 on the scoreboard and 14-10 on the shot clock.
"The guys stabilized themselves, they settled down and tried to make it less of a track meet start -- minimize the damage," Oilers coach Ton Renney said. "I thought they did a good job of that."
But the second period belonged to the Oilers. Edmonton outshot Toronto 13-3 in the middle 20 minutes and tied the score at 8:15 when Hall raced past Nikolai Kulemin to the net and deflected Sam Gagner's pass behind Reimer for his 20th of the season. Ales Hemsky nearly put the Oilers ahead late in the period, but he rang the post on a breakaway after beating Franson.
Hemsky rang the post again 1:07 into the third period after clearly beating Reimer from the right circle. Reimer denied Hemsky again with 6:30 left after he danced past the defense and cut in from the left circle in search of the tying goal.
"They were coming at us full speed but we gathered ourselves together in the third period," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "I was happy that we got it to overtime.
"We did a lot of good things tonight and rebounded off of how we played in Calgary."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
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