EDMONTON — There was a late scare to contend with, but the Toronto Maple Leafs had already set themselves up for success.
John Tavares had a goal and two assists as the Maple Leafs held on for a 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
“Probably other than the last couple of minutes, we played a really good road game,” Tavares said.
“We didn’t get rewarded as much as I think we could have. Everyone was doing a lot of good things out there and making it hard for them to establish any offence or any momentum and we generated some chance and did a good job getting a three-goal lead that proved to be enough.”
Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin also scored while Frederik Andersen made 33 saves for the Maple Leafs (42-21-5), who have gone 6-1-1 in their last eight games.
“He was outstanding,” Rielly said of Andersen’s performance. “I thought he made a lot of really impressive saves. But more than that, he plays the puck, he’s a leader for us. We’ve become used to it a little bit, just of how consistent he’s really been and tonight was another example of that.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Kelfbom responded for the Oilers (30-31-7), who scored two goals in the final minute-and-a-half but still had a four-game winning streak halted. Anthony Stolarz stopped 37 shots in defeat.
Stolarz was a surprise starter when it was announced Mikko Koskinen wouldn’t dress due to an illness.
“It’s a great game to evaluate on,” said Oilers head coach Ken Hitchcock.
“It tells you what you’ve got now and what you’ve got moving forward. And when you’ve got a team that can play at that tempo, especially through the middle of the ice, any mistakes get exposed. Any time that you decide on the ice to rest, you get exposed. And I thought we hung in there really well.”
It took the Maple Leafs 16 first-period shots before they got one past Stolarz, scoring on a Rielly point shot on the power play with just 14 seconds left in the opening frame.
Andersen came up big when called upon in the first half of the game, making a couple of huge saves on Edmonton forward Leon Draisaitl.
Toronto took a 2-0 lead at 12:28 of the second when Tavares shrugged off a defender and made a nice move before chipping his 38th of the season over Stolarz.
The Leafs added to their lead three minutes into the third when William Nylander made a great feed across the ice to allow Muzzin to score.
Edmonton broke Andersen’s shutout bid with 1:39 left with the goalie pulled on a goal by Nugent-Hopkins. Draisaitl got an assist to extend his points streak to 13 games, the longest active streak in the NHL.
The Oilers got another goal with Stolarz on the bench when Connor McDavid set up a pinching Klefbom with just 53 seconds remaining, but Edmonton couldn’t complete the comeback.
Both teams next play on Monday with the Oilers remaining home to host the New York Rangers and the Maple Leafs heading back to Toronto to face Tampa Bay.
Notes: It was the second and final meeting between the two teams. Toronto won the first game 6-2 at home back on Feb. 27… Stolarz was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia for netminder Cam Talbot on Feb. 16… Oilers forward Milan Lucic was a late scratch with an injury, the first game he has missed since signing with Edmonton three years ago… Leafs centre Nazem Kadri returned to the lineup after missing the past eight games with a concussion.
Shane Jones, The Canadian Press