In a matchup billed as a duel between phenoms Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, it was a 26-year-old ‘veteran’ who provided the heroics.
Nazem Kadri scored just a dozen seconds into overtime to lift the Leafs to a 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night before a packed house of 19,687 fans at Air Canada Centre.
On the winning goal, Kadri accepted a stretch pass from Morgan Rielly, then fought off a backchecking McDavid on a partial breakaway before getting the better of Oilers netminder Cam Talbot.
Unlike the Leafs-Jets tilt earlier this month in which rookies Matthews, and Patrick Laine, lit the lamps for their respective squads, this outing provided no offensive output from either of the evening’s two most highly-touted young stars. McDavid finished with four shots on goal, and was promptly greeted with a hit from Kadri on his opening shift of the game.
Although Matthews was blanked on the scoresheet, his line that included teammates William Nylander and Zach Hyman was dangerous throughout the evening. Matthews finished with six shots.
“I think as a line this was one of our best games of the year,” Matthews said. “We were definitely in possession of the puck a lot, creating a lot of opportunities. They just didn’t go in tonight, but I think it’s really positive here heading into our next game.”
Frederik Andersen made 44 saves in goal for the victory. The much-maligned goalie has persevered through a rough start to the season to post three consecutive quality outings. Andersen was particularly busy in the opening ten minutes, 30 seconds of the game, a stretch during which he made 12 stops.
“Freddy had one of those nights, he played real well,” coach Mike Babcock said. “They just threw a lot of pucks from the outside tonight. He’s now kind of found his confidence and in doing so he’s giving us confidence.”
Kadri opened the scoring at 1:29 of the first period after accepting a cross-ice pass from Connor Brown who had forced a turnover. The Oilers squared the affair courtesy of a blunder by Andersen after the goaltender made an ill-fated attempt to play the puck behind the goal. The result was a lost foot race, and an eventual tap-in goal for Anton Lander.
The Leafs went ahead in the second frame when Ben Smith beat Talbot between the pads. Nikita Soshnikov, recalled from the Marlies earlier in the day, earned the first assist on the goal. The tally came on a sequence in which Oilers defenceman Oskar Klefbom hit the goal post just moments earlier, missing a chance to claim the lead for the visitors.
Defenceman Darnell Nurse’s seeing-eye point shot in the third period forced overtime.
While the game featured less flare than in September when Matthews and McDavid were linemates for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey, it set the stage for what promises to be an entertaining rematch in four weeks time, in Edmonton.