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Five Takeaways - Leafs at Oilers - 11/29/16

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday at Rogers Place:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

Video: TOR@EDM: Matthews tips home a power-play tally

1. Matthews' goal streak extends to three thanks to first-period marker (and first goal of game) set up beautifully by Nylander. With nine goals and 17 points in 21 games this season, centre Auston Matthews started the night in a three-way tie with winger James van Riemsdyk and centre Nazem Kadri for the Leafs' team lead in goals, and was one point behind van Riemdsyk and winger Mitch Marner for the team lead in points. And Matthews improved those numbers Tuesday in Edmonton by scoring the first goal of the game at 5:45 to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead they'd take into the first intermission.

And although Matthews deserves credit for tapping the puck past Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, the scoring play was created by an impressive assist from forward William Nylander, who returned to Toronto's lineup after missing Saturday's 4-2 win over Washington. Skating with the puck up the side of the rink from the Leafs' blueline, Nylander deftly located Matthews directly in front of the net and at a very high speed, making the defence of it virtually impossible. It was the youngster's 10th assist of the year, and a fine example of his superior vision and hand-eye coordination.

2. Leafs strike for three goals in second period, frustrate Oilers with robust defence. In front of a large gathering of Leafs Nation at the Oilers' rink, the Leafs continued to make the most of their limited offensive opportunities in the middle period: van Riemsdyk moved into a tie with Matthews for Toronto's lead in goal-scoring with his 10th of the year at 2:49 of the second, and after the Oilers got on the scoreboard just 2:01 later when blueliner Andrej Sekera scored his first of the season, Kadri scored his 10th of the year at the 6:00 mark.

However, after Kadri was assessed a double-minor penalty at 14:42 of the frame and winger Zach Hyman was sent to the box for hooking, Toronto was forced to deal with a 5-on-3 Oilers man advantage for 65 seconds and Edmonton had a golden chance to close the gap. Unfortunately for the home team, Andersen was at the top of his game, turning aside 21 of 22 shots through 40 minutes, and worker bees Roman Polak, Matt Hunwick and Ben Smith put in solid performances to prevent the Oilers from cutting into the Buds' two-goal lead.

And, as often happens in this sport, a terrific defensive effort lead to success at the other end of the rink: 17 seconds after his hooking penalty ended, Hyman scored his third of the season to give the Leafs a three-goal lead heading into the third. Edmonton had five power plays through two periods, but Andersen's play - and Toronto's ability to pounce on their opponents in an eye's blink - had them looking at a mountainous climb back into the game in the final 20 minutes of regulation time.

3. McDavid makes presence known, gives Oilers hope with early third-period goal. Less than 35 seconds after killing off their sixth power play of the contest, the Leafs had their lead trimmed to two goals when Oilers centre Connor McDavid used his astonishing speed to drive to the net and beat Andersen to make it 4-2 in Toronto's favour.

Much like Nylander's assist was all but impossible for the Oilers to defend against, McDavid's acceleration would give fits to any NHL defender, and the 19-year-old's 11th goal of the season was a product of that element of his game. Sure, he's got the soft hands of the world's best surgeons, but it's the fact he can perform delicate operations faster than a Tour de France cyclist that sets him apart from all but a few of his peers.

 

Video: TOR@EDM: Hyman rifles home a loose puck

4. Toronto absorbs Edmonton's push-back, gets strong effort from Hyman in securing win. McDavid's goal - and a few sharp saves from Oilers netminder Jonas Gustavsson, who replaced Talbot to start the third - had Edmonton's fans crossing their fingers a comeback was on its way. Instead, they saw a Leafs squad determined to lock up Toronto's second road win of the year - and Hyman was a major contributor to the cause.

In addition to his second-period goal, Hyman had a game-best five shots on net in 15:08 of ice tie, including 4:43 on the penalty kill. His doggedness and healthy disregard for his own-personal well-being continues to endear him to Leafs fans and head coach Mike Babcock, and his impact at both ends of the ice - and the neutral zone as well - was on full display in Tuesday's win.

5. Soshnikov doing what's asked of him, solidifying Leafs' fourth line. Winger Nikita Soshnikov is never the most physically imposing in any game he plays for the Leafs, but he's almost always the most physically notable in every game. This game followed that pattern, as the 23-year-old led his team with four hits and four blocked shots in just 13:44 of play; his abrasiveness is one of his best attributes, and anyone who ever hears about the tired old stereotype that Europeans are "soft" hockey players needs only point to Soshnikov to prove how baseless it is.

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