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No push-back as Oilers dismantled by Leafs for third-straight game

Toronto Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikheyev (65) celebrates a goal with teammates against Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikheyev (65) celebrates a goal with teammates against Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

Until Wednesday night, the last time the Edmonton Oilers gave up 11 straight goals without one of their own was in mid-February in Hartford, 37 years ago, when the Whalers’ anthem, Brass Bonanza, was on a continuous loop.

The Oilers laughed off that crazy day and won their first Stanley Cup three months later, but after the Toronto Maple Leafs’ dismantling of the current Oilers in three games over five days, this stain might last a little longer.

After a 4-0 loss last Saturday, and 3-0 Monday, the Oilers gave up the first four Wednesday before Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ended their goalless run at 153:46, squeezing one past Leafs No. 1 netminder Frederik Andersen. That goal on their 15th shot of the night was Edmonton’s only positive, as the Leafs, now 9-1-1 on the road this season, put the boots to the Oilers 6-1.

The Oilers, who came into this series on top of the world, flying high with 11 wins in 13 games to get within four points of the Leafs, unbelieveably got out-scored 13-1 by Toronto. In two of the games (the first and third), they didn’t get on the power play because they didn’t have the puck enough to draw a hook or a hold. But don’t blame the zebras.

“You win a few games (after their 3-6 start) but this a real good dose of reality, said Oilers coach Dave Tippett, not get any argument from ex-Leaf defenceman Tyson Barrie, who felt they got their knuckles rapped hard.

“This didn’t go how we wanted to, at all. That team is the gold-standard in this division and they gave us a bit of lesson,” said Barrie. “We have to take a look in the mirror here. They embarrassed us and this is a tough one to swallow.”

The Oilers have never been blanked three games in a row, but 11 times they been shut out two straight — with Jack Campbell and Michael Hutchinson blocking all 71 shots in the first two games of this series before Andersen, who had been nursing a leg injury, gave up the Oilers’ lone goal. As for the Leafs, any historical mention of the 1945 club that didn’t give up a goal to Detroit in three consecutive playoff games is moot now.

Jimmy Vesey, who has five goals all season, had two on Mike Smith — one of them on a 2-on-0 mass-confusion play by the Oilers with Jason Spezza hitting Vesey for a lay-up on the helpless Smith. John Tavares and Zach Hyman, both on the power play, scored to give the Leafs four in 10 tries in the three series games. Ilya Mikheyev and William Nylander got the others on Smith, who, frankly, kept this from being 10-1 with half a dozen big saves.

And so, the taken-to-the-woodshed Oilers are now 10 points back of the Leafs after coming in on their heater only to crash to earth with a thud They’re a lot closer to fourth place than first in the North now, their game absolutely hitting rock-bottom with this loss. This was the Bermuda Triangle for the Oilers, their game just disappearing.

Mind-boggling. Concerning. Any other description?

“Very frustrating,” said Leon Draisaitl, before being asked if the Oilers’ stormy week after all the sunny days coming into the series is on them or the Leafs. “Both.They played really well all three games and made it really hard on us but we didn’t push back enough.”

They have a mandated NHL Players Association day off Thursday and will be back on the ice Friday, knowing they can’t just toss the tape of this series in the trash can.

“You can’t forget about it. It’s an up-down season and obviously we’re down right now,” said Draisaitl, with the lack of power plays in two of the three games acting as a stern message they didn’t work hard enough.

“We didn’t win any battles. There were so many little scrums and we could never get the puck out of it. When you can’t do that, it’s tough to draw penalties,” said Draisaitl.

They lost to three different goalies, they lost the first two to Toronto with Auston Matthews not playing because of a sore wrist. Every result was rinse and repeat.

The longest shutout string against the Oilers is 207:43 in April of 2007, so this one was a long way from that with the 153:46 between Connor McDavid’s empty-netter against Vancouver on Feb. 25 and Nugent-Hopkins’ rebound goal after a Draisaitl shot deep into the second period Wednesday. But even though Tippett reunited last year’s hottest trio with the addition of Kailer Yamamoto after the two shutout losses, and he put James Neal on McDavid’s left-wing and gave Joakim Nygard his first game in five weeks, it was all lipstick on a pig.

McDavid, who played all over the lineup, didn’t get a point — the first time he’s gone three in a row since Oct. 18-22 against Detroit, Winnipeg and Minnesota in 2019. And after lots of try in the first two games, their level of competitive fire was limited in the Wednesday rout that dropped them to 14-11, with three games from the halfway point of the season.

“We came out strong but we did that all three games and we can’t get up a couple of goals and it’s the same old story,” said McDavid. “For whatever reason, we couldn’t figure those guys out and they figured us out. We couldn’t find a way to solve all three of their goalies.”

This ‘n’ that: Andersen is 15-1-2 lifetime against the Oilers … Nygard left the taxi squad after sitting for 14 straight games, his first action since Jan. 28. He’s played five games, three of which were against Toronto. Patrick Russell went back to the taxi-squad … Mikheyev showed his speed in the first period, refusing to let McDavid get the best of him on a back-check up the ice by the Oilers captain … Dominik Kahun (undisclosed medical issue) missed his first game after playing the first 24. He has four goals on Draisaitl’s wing … Defenceman Evan Bouchard took the pre-game warmup but didn’t dress … The Leafs scratched Alexander Barabanov with Matthews returning to play first-line centre and Alex Kerfoot moving from second-line centre to right-wing.

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @jimmathesonnhl

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021

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