‘It’s disappointing’: Maple Leafs’ stars fail to show up against motivated Oilers

Connor McDavid scored twice to keep his multi-goal streak going while both Klim Kostin and Zach Hyman added a goal and assist to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

EDMONTON – After watching their general manager leave it all out there this week, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ hockey players could have chosen to do the same.

Instead, they took the option.

Lacking bite and directness, slinking out of their systems and summoning nary a notable moment from their top-end talent, the players Kyle Dubas tried to boost fell flat in a 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday.

“We just didn’t play with any purpose or intelligence,” said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, visibly perturbed. “It’s just disappointing.

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“I thought the new guys played fine here today. It’s the guys that we regularly count on that weren’t good enough.”

Connor McDavid scored two goals. 

Zach Hyman posted two points.

Auston Matthews registered all of two shots. John Tavares the same.

Morgan Rielly had two giveaways.

William Nylander’s seven-game point streak was snuffed out by a dash-3 performance. 

And Justin Holl — throwing hits like his job with Toronto depends on it — lost an unlikely fight to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, of all people, in garbage time.

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Not one Leaf finished in the plus column in this, the club’s most lopsided loss since the All-Star break, when they were defeated by the Boston Bruins by the same margin.

Depth forward Sam Lafferty and shutdown defenceman Jake McCabe both committed penalties in their Leafs debut, and although they performed fine, clearly more practice time is needed.

Thing is, the scoreboard could’ve grown even more crooked had Toronto not tightened up in the third period and got the benefit of a call or two.

“The way we were playing, we might have given up 10 if we stayed like that,” Keefe said. “Just way too many clear paths to the net for them tonight.”

David Kämpf didn’t celebrate the lone 5-on-5 goal for the Leafs because it may have been the result of an offside rush that went unchallenged.

Starter Ilya Samsonov — who made some nice saves — actually allowed seven pucks into his net. The goaltender caught no-goal breaks in the form of a quick whistle and a McDavid interference penalty. 

“Our opponent tonight was very focused and very committed to play together to win the game,” Keefe said, crediting the Oilers on World Compliment Day.

The coach pointed to McDavid’s opening 5-on-4 strike at the 3:46 mark as the turning point. It was all uphill from there.

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“The way we started the penalty kill against the No. 1 power play in the history of the NHL — we get our first exit, give it right back to ’em. Like, we’re not serious about winning when that’s the case,” Keefe said.

“Those are our regular penalty-killers, our top people. That’s how we started the game, and didn’t get much better from there.”

The team that needed — and wanted — the two points more locked them up swiftly and efficiently.

The Oilers had lost six of their past eight and are entrenched in a playoff battle. They’re well within striking distance of the Pacific Division title and tumbling distance from the wild card or worse.

In other words, the regular season still matters in Alberta the way Keefe wishes it did in Ontario. 

The Maple Leafs arrived in town high off a three-game win streak and a three-trade Tuesday and a three-hour Bruce Springsteen concert.

Then McDavid & Co. promptly dictated terms like their boss, owning the neutral zone and reaching 52 goals and 118 points before the deadline.

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Matthews: “He’s obviously a freak.”

Nylander: “It’s crazy. He’s scoring more than ever this year, and the assists still keep coming. He’s just dialing it up even more.”

Keefe: “The stats, the video, whatever it is, they just scream that he’s on another level, that no one is anywhere close to at this point.”

The team whose stars showed up won the game, as is so often the hockey way.

“But it’s not a reflection of who we are, what we are as a team,” Keefe insisted.

On the bright side, the Maple Leafs get a chance to show what they really are 24 hours from now, in Calgary.

Joseph Woll will play. 

Hopefully, a few others will join him.

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Fox’s Fast 5

• Once the Leafs played their way out of the game, Keefe began tinkering with a third line of Kerfoot–O’Reilly–Lafferty, bumping Calle Järnkrok up to the second unit with Tavares and Nylander.

That is a third line that Keefe has been wanting to try out for a while.

• Something tells me the Molson Cup is not the one McDavid is after …

• A rested Jack Campbell — Edmonton’s UFA splash — was not given the net in a big game against his former team. That says all you need know about the state of the crease in Oil Country.

Campbell’s past four outings have all been losses. He has surrendered four or more goals in each of those.

• Hyman scored 21 goals and 41 points in his most productive season for Toronto. Hanging a two-point effort on the team that wouldn’t sign him, Hyman already has 29 goals and 71 points for Edmonton this season — with 20 games to go.

Hyman is 15th overall in league scoring, tied with the likes of All-Stars Nathan MacKinnon, Kirill Kaprizov and Mikko Rantanen.

• Having won a Stanley Cup with brother Brayden, O’Reilly smiles wide when asked for his take on the Luke Schenn trade: “It’s nice to have the Human Eraser here. … Big piece.”

Schenn’s old No. 2 was given to Jake McCabe between this week’s trades and he was slated to wear No. 22.

McCabe awoke to a text message from Schenn Wednesday asking how locked in he was to wearing No. 2. 

McCabe graciously made the switch: “It’s cool that he gets it back.”

“That number, on that jersey, means so much to me. Really grateful that Jake was willing to make the change. It started 15 years ago for me and extremely excited to be back wearing the Maple Leaf,” Schenn told Carlo Colaiacovo

“Any other team, I wouldn’t care about my jersey number, but on this team it’s special to me.”

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