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Sports: Maple Leafs down undermanned Oilers 4-2 to send Edmonton to its 11th loss in 13 games

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TORONTO — Ilya Mikheyev scored on a third-period power play as the Toronto Maple Leafs heaped more misery on the undermanned Edmonton Oilers with a 4-2 victory on Wednesday night.

  Maple Leafs down undermanned Oilers 4-2 to send Edmonton to its 11th loss in 13 games © Provided by The Canadian Press

John Tavares and T.J. Brodie also scored for Toronto (22-8-2). Jack Campbell made 28 saves as the Leafs improved to 20-4-1 over their past 25 games. William Nylander added two assists. Alexander Kerfoot iced it into the empty net and set up his team's opener.

Leon Draisaitl and Brendan Perlini replied for Edmonton (18-14-2), which got 29 saves from Mike Smith. The Oilers led the Western Conference with a 16-5-0 record Dec. 1 but are now 2-9-2 over their last 13 following a 0-3-2 road trip.

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Edmonton was minus captain Connor McDavid, fellow centre Derek Ryan and defenceman Tyson Barrie after all three were added to the NHL's COVID-19 protocol. The Oilers were also without top-six forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (undisclosed), who has been placed on injured reserve.

The Leafs, meanwhile, had Auston Matthews in the lineup following a COVID-19 scare that kept him out of practice Monday and Tuesday.

Smith, who was out two months with an undisclosed injury, made just his sixth start of 2021-22 after sitting out the last two. That included Monday's 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers that saw under-fire head coach Dave Tippett criticize fellow goaltender Mikko Koskinen's performance.

Mikheyev ripped his third goal of the season — and third in the last two games since returning from wrist surgery Dec. 14 — past Smith's glove at 11:25 of the final period on a man advantage. That snapped a 2-2 tie after Oilers defenceman Slater Koekkoek put the puck right on the winger's stick off a scrambled draw.

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The desperate Oilers pulled Smith late for an extra attacker, but Campbell shut the door before Kerfoot scored into the empty net.

Wednesday's date had been circled on the calendar not only because of McDavid's yearly trip to Toronto — except for last season's one-and-done North Division when Canadian teams played in a closed division — but also the return of former Leafs fan favourite Zach Hyman after he bolted to the Oilers in free agency.

The nationally televised game was instead played without the NHL's reigning MVP and devoid of atmosphere — save for canned crowd noise — with fans barred from Scotiabank Arena due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions in response to the pandemic's fourth wave fuelled by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

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Toronto, which beat Edmonton 5-1 in the Alberta capital Dec. 14 before a coronavirus outbreak that impacted 14 players and seven team staff at its height, returned to action in impressive fashion with Saturday's 6-0 victory over the shorthanded Ottawa Senators.

Red-hot Maple Leafs hit the road without Mitch Marner after positive COVID-19 test

  Red-hot Maple Leafs hit the road without Mitch Marner after positive COVID-19 test TORONTO — The Maple Leafs are hitting the road — and preparing to once again play in front of fans — minus one of their stars. The team announced Friday that Mitch Marner and fellow winger Pierre Engvall have been placed into the NHL's COVID-19 protocol. Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said both players were experiencing mild symptoms after testing positive as their teammates prepared to open a four-game road trip Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche. "It's just the reality of the situation," Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly said following practice before the club flew to Denver. "Everybody's going through it.

Hyman spent six seasons with the Leafs, winning over fans with his grit, hard work and determination before the Toronto native signed a seven-year, US$38.5-million contract with Edmonton over the summer.

The Leafs opened the scoring at 4:25 of the first when Nylander's shot off the end boards was tipped by Tavares and accidentally kicked into the Edmonton net by Smith. It was the Toronto captain's 14th of the campaign as the Oilers surrendered the first goal for an NHL-high 24th time this season.

The visitors responded at 9:58 when Colton Sceviour found Perlini in front off the rush for his second.

Draisaitl then made it 2-1 just 1:14 later following some sustained pressure off a pass from Kailer Yamamoto to bury his league-leading 26th.

But the Leafs responded with 25.7 seconds left in the period when Brodie's point shot hit the stick of Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard for the blue-liner's third of the season — and third in as many games.

The teams played fairly a low-event second until Mitch Marner hit the post for Toronto on a power play.

Edmonton's Ryan McLeod then had a chance to give his team its first lead but didn't realize he had Campbell at his mercy before sliding a no-look pass into a crowd before Smith denied Nylander on a breakaway to things tied heading to the third.

Notes: Matthews and assistant coach Dean Chynoweth both produced positive rapid COVID-19 tests Monday morning. Each tested negative on subsequent PCR tests and were cleared. ... The Leafs open a four-game road trip in Colorado against the Avalanche on Saturday. ... Edmonton winger Zack Kassian exited protocol in time to suit up against Toronto. ... The Oilers are scheduled to host Ottawa on Monday when McDavid, Barrie and Ryan could be out of protocol.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2022.


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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Tyson Barrie extension proving to be one of Holland’s biggest mistakes .
Amid a flurry of criticism, extending Tyson Barrie seemed like a relatively harmless move for the Edmonton Oilers. But the gift of hindsight has proven this to be one of general manager Ken Holland's worst decisions. After a very impressive 2020-21 regular season, the Oilers were flat-out embarrassed in the playoffs, getting swept by the Winnipeg Jets in the opening round. It was clear that despite having two of the best stars in the game in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, this team needed to greatly improve its depth. The good news was that for the first time in his tenure with the Oilers, Holland finally had some cap space to make the necessary changes.

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