Leafs break four-game losing streak
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP)
Connolly's connected 1:39 into the extra period to give Toronto a 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night that snapped the Maple Leafs' four-game losing streak.
After the Oilers came in on a 3-on-1 rush, the Maple Leafs turned around and went up ice with a similar break of their own. Joffrey Lupul found Connolly with a pass for the winning goal.
Lupul, Matthew Lombardi and Jake Gardiner also scored for the Maple Leafs (29-23-6), who were seventh in the Eastern Conference before their slide. They avoided a tough loss that could have put them close to being out of a playoff position and moved three points ahead of ninth-place Washington.
''That was a huge win for us,'' Gardiner said. ''You don't lose four games in a row all that often, and when you do it's not a great feeling. That fifth game means a lot, and I'm happy we got it.''
After being outscored 10-1 in their two previous games, including a 5-1 loss at Calgary on Tuesday, the Maple Leafs were relieved to find their footing again.
''That last game was a tough one to swallow,'' said defenseman Cody Franson, who had two assists. ''This was a big game for us. It was kind of a must-have two points after the way our last four have gone. We battled hard to get the points.''
''We had a slow start but came back hard and played a good game,'' Eager said. ''We had our chances to win, but unfortunately we couldn't convert.''
It didn't take the visiting Maple Leafs long to get their many fans at Rexall Place going as they scored on the game's first shot just 41 seconds in. Lupul used defender Ladislav Smid as a screen and put the puck between the pads of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin for his 23rd goal of the season.
Less than a minute later, Toronto made it 2-0 after Cody Franson sprung Lombardi on a breakaway. Lombardi sent a backhander past Khabibulin, causing Edmonton to take its timeout before the game was two minutes old.
The tactic paid off quickly as Edmonton made it 2-1 at 2:32 when Lennart Petrell stole the puck from behind the net and fed it in front to Eager, who drilled a shot past goalie James Reimer.
Khabibulin had to come up big to keep it tied with five minutes left in the second when Cam Barker gave up the puck in front of the Edmonton net. Khabibulin bailed him out with a big save in tight on Tyler Bozak.
Edmonton outshot Toronto 13-3 in the second period.
The Oilers almost went up 3-2 in the opening minute of the third, but Ales Hemsky put his second shot off the post.
The Leafs regained the lead seven minutes into the third period, on just the second power play of the game, when Gardiner ripped in a shot from the point.
However, Edmonton tied it again with 3:04 left in regulation. Eberle fought off David Steckel and picked the top corner on Reimer for his 25th goal.
''They were coming at us full speed, but we gathered ourselves together in the third period,'' Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. ''I was happy that we got it to overtime.
''We did a lot of good things and rebounded off of how we played in Calgary.''
NOTES: It was the second and final meeting of the season between the teams. The Maple Leafs beat the Oilers 6-3 in Toronto on Feb. 6. ... Oilers D Corey Potter has missed the last few practices because of a groin injury. That paved the way for Barker to return to the lineup. ... First overall draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is skating but has yet to begin full practices for Edmonton. He is expected to be out for at least another week. Despite a pair of shoulder injuries, Nugent-Hopkins remains two points behind New Jersey's Adam Henrique in the rookie scoring race with 35 points in 40 games. ... Toronto D Luke Schenn was a surprise healthy scratch after taking the pregame skate.