Look, the Leafs have banked eight games with at least a point so there may have been some thought among Air Canada Centre patrons Saturday that they could be watching a playoff team.
Turns out they probably were.
The Edmonton Oilers posted a 4-1 win over the Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
Playing most of the game without the snakebit Mike Van Ryn and Jonas Frogren, the Leafs didn’t lose because they were thin on defence. The injuries left only Pavel Kubina, Luke Schenn
, Ian White and Jeff Finger
to man the Leafs blue line but they were fine. The Leafs outshot the Oilers 40-18.
Problem was it took only a dozen shots for the Oil to beat Martin Gerber three times in the second period.
“I thought they played really well,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson of his big four. “They got a couple of breaks on weird kind of turnovers in the neutral zone and they took advantage of it. We just didn’t have the finish.”
In the first period, Van Ryn, a runaway winner of the Carlo Colaiacovo Brittle Bones award got his leg tangled with that of an Oiler and left the ice with assistance and without his left leg touching the ice. Frogren, meanwhile, was tangling with an Oiler forward near the Toronto cage and limped off the ice. “He (Van Ryn) will be a while and Jonas Frogren will be a while,” said Wilson. The Leafs will be calling up a pair of Marlie defenceman since newly-acquired Eric Reitz (foot) and Tomas Kaberle (hand) are a week away for returning to the lineup.
Wilson did not sound sure that Van Ryn would be back for the club’s final 16 games.
“Hopefully he (Van Ryn) can come back. We want to get him fixed up. He’s made an impression on me this year and (if not this year) we would get him ready for next year.”
The Oilers took advantage of a sloppy 10 minutes stretch in the second to drop the Leafs back under the .500 level at 26-27-13. The verdict upped the Oil to 32-27-6. Edmonton entered the game just two points out of eighth place in the Western Conference and if you are looking for differences between the two teams, consider the fact that the Oilers are on average two inches taller, two years younger and very, very fast.
Alexei Ponikarovsky followed his own shot and cashiered a rebound past Dwayne Roloson in the second minute of the first period to open the scoring.
But the Oilers woke up and began to press.
Only 21 seconds after Ponikarovsky’s goal, Ales Hemsky beat Gerber.
Kyle Brodziak extracted a puck from Ian White’s skates near the Leaf blueline and dashed down the ice to beat Gerber.
Fernando Pisani’s shot from the top of the circle made it 3-1 before the second period was even halfway done and that was the game. Brodziak added an empty netter to seal the deal.
“The chances we gave up were prime scoring chances and breakaways,” said Leafs forward Matt Stajan. “When they capitalized on those it sort of took the wind out of us.” “It was a tough night and they did a great job,” said Gerber. “A few got through and they took advantage of it. I’ve got to do a better job on that.”
The Maple Leafs play in Ottawa on Monday and spend most of their week against teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. They face the Islanders on Tuesday at Air Canada Centre, Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday at home and finish their week with another home date against Calgary on Saturday.