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Kessel leads Maple Leafs past Oilers

by Derek Van Diest /

EDMONTON -- Phil Kessel put on a show for the swarms of Toronto Maple Leafs fans who turned up at Rexall Place.

Kessel had a hand in all of Toronto's offense, scoring twice and assisting on the other two goals in a 4-0 victory against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.

James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri also scored for the Maple Leafs (9-4-0), who took sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference with the victory. James Reimer earned his first shutout of the season and 11th of his career by stopping 43 shots.

Richard Bachman made 22 saves for the Oilers (3-9-2) in the loss.

Kessel's big night gave him 18 points in 13 games, two points behind NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"Puck luck is part of it, but skilled players find a way to get goals," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said of Kessel. "The puck kind of follows those guys around. He doesn't need many opportunities to score.

"When he wasn't scoring you could chart where his shots were coming from and tonight, where did his goals come from? He's going into those dirty areas to get goals. That's what has to happen because goals aren't easy to score in the NHL. He has quick hands and if you give him an open net his eyes get a little bit wider."

Kessel opened the scoring 1:08 into the first period, collecting a pass in front from a diving Kadri and sliding the puck past Bachman.

The Maple Leafs made it 2-0 at 1:41 of the second when Kessel and van Riemsdyk broke away on a 2-on-1 rush moments after Justin Schultz rang a shot off the post at the other end. Kessel slid the puck to van Riemsdyk, who beat Bachman for his sixth goal of the season.

"The second goal was a back-breaker for us, we hit the post and they come down and score on the 2-on-1," Oilers center Sam Gagner said. "That's tough, but resilient teams find a way to battle back and that's something we want to become.

"I thought we had a lot of shots that were one and done. We needed to find ways, when he gives rebounds up, to get to the net and create second opportunities. You have to give [Reimer] credit, he played a good, solid game. But we can't be shut out in here; we have to find ways to get back in that game."

The Maple Leafs were outshot 43-26 but made the most of their opportunities.

Kessel added his second of the game at 9:42 of the second period, taking the puck at the side of the net and beating Bachman over the shoulder from a tight angle. The goal was Kessel's eighth of the season and seventh in four games.

"I've just been getting a couple of good bounces right now," Kessel said. "I've had some good passes and some guys have been making some good plays. I've been pretty fortunate. I'm just playing the game and trying to help the team win."

Kadri added an insurance goal at 6:14 of the third period, tipping Morgan Rielly's shot over Bachman's shoulder.

Despite taking a beating, being on the receiving end of two devastating body checks, then crashing into the end boards, Kadri finished with three points.

"I thought it hit him," Rielly said, who was originally awarded the fourth goal. "He tried to give me credit for it at the start, but I said if it hit him he should have it. I'm not too worried about it. I'm just glad we got the win."

The Oilers went into the game short a forward as David Perron fell ill and was unable to dress. Earlier in the day, they activated Gagner, who missed the first 13 games of the season with a broken jaw.

Without an extra forward on the roster, the Oilers dressed seven defensemen.

"You look at that game and it was about who finishes chances and who doesn't tonight for me," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "I don't believe we were out-competed, out-hit, out-toughed, out-shot. We were out-finished, that's what we were.

"We talked about that, the Toronto Maple Leafs, they're a team that doesn't have the puck a whole lot, they've been outshot a lot this season. But if you give them the opportunity, they will score. They have guys that can put it in the net and they showed that tonight."

The Oilers took the play to the Maple Leafs in the third period, outshooting them 19-5, but were unable to beat Reimer.

"As a team, I don't think we want to give up 40-plus shots, but having said that, I don't think it was as dangerous as the quantity suggested," Reimer said. "Our defense and our whole team did a heck of a job of eliminating second chances. Edmonton played well and came at us, but I thought we protected the house really well."

The Maple Leafs welcomed back Joffrey Lupul, who had missed the previous two games with a foot injury. Lupul was a game-time decision and was not declared ready to play until after warmups.

The Maple Leafs continue their three-game Western Canada trip against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. The Oilers are off until they host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
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