‘Self-inflicted wounds’: Oilers fail to mitigate mistakes in disastrous second period

John Tavares led up an offensive barrage with two goals and an assist and Mitch Marner scored a highlight reel and added three helpers as the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied from two goals down to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 7-4 in a barnburner.

TORONTO — Ryan McLeod was like the kid who played with fire, and then watched the whole barn burn down. 

And up in smoke with that barn went two points that the Edmonton Oilers absolutely wasted in a 7-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs

“Self-inflicted wounds,” was how Evander Kane best described it. 

“You can’t you can’t give a team like that anything easy,” echoed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. 

With his team holding a comfortable 3-1 second-period lead, McLeod committed the cardinal sin. He passed the puck through his own slot. 

Not up the boards. Not a bank shot off the end boards to the defenceman on the other side. 

McLeod did what every Canadian kid knows to be the equivalent of, “Never lick the soccer posts on a cold winter day.” He moved the puck through the danger zone, which just happened to be inhabited by one of the most skilled hockey players on the planet — Mitch Marner. 

[brightcove videoID=6322408955112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

“Young mistake. It was a young mistake,” repeated his head coach Jay Woodcroft. “He’d be the first guy to own up for that. No one feels worse about that play than Ryan McLeod. He knows.” 

We’ll side with Woodcroft on principle, but alas, we’ll never know. 

McLeod, plus rookie defenceman and fellow mistake-maker Vincent Desharnais were requested by the media for post-game interviews. But the Oilers leadership group — the players, not management — quashed that request and sent out veterans Nugent-Hopkins and Kane instead to join Zach Hyman in describing this loss. 

That’s a team protecting its young. A veteran group who is saying, “It’s not on the two young guys who messed up. We should have done more to mitigate the damage those two errors led to.” 

[brightcove videoID=6322414366112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

“It’s not one or two guys. It’s everybody in here,” Nugent-Hopkins stated. “We have to be better in the middle of that second period and we weren’t.” 

“Nobody on our team points the finger,” Woodcroft said. “That’s a hallmark of a good team — people who stick together win or lose.” 

Left alone to torture goalie Stuart Skinner at his will, Marner coolly deposited the unassisted 3-2 goal into Edmonton’s net, starting an avalanche that only the second period buzzer could stop. 

By the time the teams went to their respective dressing rooms — after a tough giveaway by Desharnais, a puck fanned on at centre ice by Darnell Nurse (who may have had his stick lifted), and a Leafs powerplay further supplied by Nurse — the score was 5-3 for Toronto. 

[brightcove videoID=6322410036112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Four Toronto goals in 5:59 turned a 3-1 lead into a 5-3 deficit. 

Implosion? 

This was a cave-in of epic proportion. It started with the play by McLeod, but a veteran team needs to find a way to stem the Leafs’ momentum. 

One goal can’t lead to four. 

“We’ve got to stop the bleeding earlier,” agreed Kane. “We can’t compound those mistakes and continue to turn pucks over at centre, at the blue-line. We’ve got to be smart with the puck.” 

So Edmonton closes a six-game stretch that saw them play each of Toronto, Boston and Winnipeg in home and home series’, and finished at 3-3. Add in a tidy 3-2 win at Buffalo, and the Oilers come home with a split of a four-game road trip, but still hanging around as a wildcard team, failing to gain ground in the Pacific Division standings. 

“I still think the way that we played Boston and Buffalo, we can take confidence from that for sure,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who had two assists. “You want to win every night and a loss is a loss. They always sting. But we can still take a lot of positives from this road trip.” 

The Oilers went from “checking for their chances,” as Nurse spoke in Boston, to giving up six and an empty-netter two nights later in Toronto. They displayed the same defensive game Saturday — until they didn’t, when Toronto opened the floodgates in Period 2. 

“You want to find that consistency of playing hockey and not giving up six goals, when you went into Boston and only gave up two,” said Kane, who got caught in the vortex that is the chatty Leafs pest Michael Bunting. 

[brightcove videoID=6322408080112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Bunting, who is getting the same treatment as the officials used to give to Vancouver’s Alex Burrows, got another embellishment penalty Saturday. Then Kane chased him all the way up the ice, abusing him the entire way, they both got double-minors — even though it was Kane administering all the pain. 

“He likes to dive and embellish,” said Kane. “You want to get that out of the game, but they prevent guys from the consequences of those actions. 

“Fighting is a great deterrent for those type of players and actions. It just prevents guys from having to answer the bell like. He’s a perfect example of that.” 

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.