The Maple Leafs scored once in each period and downed the Oilers by a 3-2 final to finish the Western Canada road trip with five out of a possible six points.
LEAFS' RIELLY SCORES ON HIS BIRTHDAY, GIVES BUDS GAME'S FIRST LEAD
In the final game of a three-game western Canadian road trip, the Leafs were taking on an Oilers team Saturday that was desperate to remain in the race for a Western Conference wild card berth. Edmonton also had won four games in a row, while Toronto was trying to get back in the win column after losing to Vancouver Wednesday and having a two-game win streak snapped.
The Leafs looked intent on finishing the road trip 2-0-1 right from the start, outshooting the Oilers 16-10 in the first period. And Toronto jumped ahead with only 14 seconds left in the first when defenceman Morgan Rielly - who was celebrating his 25th birthday Saturday - fired a shot from the point that beat Edmonton goaltender Anthony Stolarz.
Video: TOR@EDM: Rielly opens the scoring with PPG
The goal - which was the only goal scored by either team in the first - was Rielly's 18th of the season, and it brought to its feet the notable contingent of Leafs Nation that showed up in Edmonton to see their favourite team. And they'd have more to cheer about soon enough.
BUDS BUILD LEAD VIA TAVARES' ON-THE-RUSH BRILLIANCE IN SECOND
Tavares registered his team-leading 39th goal of the year at 12:29 of the second, taking a puck from Hyman and bearing down the middle of the ice before deking in front of Stolarz and eventually chipping the puck over Stolarz' leg to make it 2-0 for the Leafs:
Video: TOR@EDM: Tavares chips puck by Stolarz
Once again, only one goal was scored in the second - and once again, it was the visiting team that scored it. The only thing that changed was the guy who had the primary assist on the first goal was the guy who took it upon himself d score the next goal. And Tavares got to give Western Conference fans a glimpse of what he's been doing all year: moving to the net with purpose, speed and snarl, and the ability to serve as either playmaker or play-finisher.
TORONTO GOES UP BY THREE AS MUZZIN BENEFITS FROM TAVARES', NYLANDER'S OFFENSIVE VISION; OILERS SCORE TWO IN FINAL TWO MINUTES OF THIRD, BUT LEAFS HANG TIGHT, SECURE ROAD WIN
The third period began with Toronto looking to add as much insurance as possible in a game where centre Connor McDavid is one of your opponents. And the Buds got what would turn out to be the game-winner at the 3:00 mark, when blueliner Jake Muzzin finished off a terrific scoring sequence that included Tavares making a backhand pass to rushing forward William Nylander, and Nylander moving into Edmonton's zone and finding the streaking Muzzin, who scored his sixth of the season to make it 3-0 Leafs:
Video: TOR@EDM: Nylander, Muzzin connect for smooth goal
Getting ahead by three goals in the third period is a scenario most teams would want at the end of a road trip, and after Muzzin's goal, they were doing a solid job the rest of the period keeping the Oilers at bay. Andersen turned aside 12 of 14 Oilers shots in the third, and although Edmonton would not give up - scoring twice in a 46-second span in the final two minutes of the third to cut Toronto's lead to 3-2 - Andersen and the Leafs were at least equally resilient and picked up the victory.
LEAFS RETURN TO WIN COLUMN THANKS TO ANDERSEN'S DEFENSIVE BRILLIANCE, TAVARES' CONTRIBUTIONS ON EACH TORONTO GOAL
The Leafs were winners Saturday because Andersen stopped 31 of 33 shots; because Tavares had one goal and two assists. Of course, it took the entire Leafs team to lock up the win - Toronto's 42nd of the year - but Tavares factored into all three of Toronto's goals, and Andersen was marvelous: his rebound control, his projection of calm, even when things aren't necessarily calm. All of it helped him get through and pick up his 33rd win of the year.
Toronto returns home for a Monday showdown with the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts are 8-2-0 in their past 10, and they'll be as good a challenge as the Leafs will find in this final stretch of the regular season. Not to put any pressure on him, but a performance from Andersen like he pulled off Saturday will help his team go a long way for Toronto Monday.