Maple Leafs send Oilers to 11th loss in 13 games

John Tavares and T.J. Brodie also scored for Toronto, Alexander Kerfoot had a goal and an assist, and William Nylander had two assists to help the Maple Leafs improve to 20-4-1 in their last 25 games. Jack Campbell stopped 28 shots.

Leon Draisaitl and Brendan Perlini scored for Edmonton, and Mike Smith had 29 saves. The slumping Oilers finished a winless road trip 0-3-2 to fall to 2-9-2 since a 16-5-0 start.

Edmonton was missing captain Connor McDavid, fellow center Derek Ryan and defenseman Tyson Barrie after all three were added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols. The Oilers were also without top-six forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (undisclosed), who has been placed on injured reserve.

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Toronto Maple Leafs' Ilya Mikheyev (65) celebrates his goal against the Edmonton Oilers with teammates during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022 in Toronto.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikheyev (65) celebrates his goal against the Edmonton Oilers with teammates during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Maple Leafs had Auston Matthews following a COVID-19 scare that kept him out of practice Monday and Tuesday.

Smith, who was out two months with an undisclosed injury, made just his sixth start of the season after sitting out the last two. That included Monday’s 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers that saw coach Dave Tippett criticize fellow goalie Mikko Koskinen’s performance.

“There was a lot of try in our game,” Tippett said. “We just couldn’t get that play made that makes the difference. … It’s a game where every play counts. You have to get that play to put you over the top. They got it tonight, we didn’t.”

Mikheyev scored his third goal of the season — and third in the last two games since returning from wrist surgery Dec. 14 — past Smith’s glove with 8:35 left in the third period. That snapped a 2-2 tie after Oilers defenseman Slater Koekkoek put the puck right on the forward’s stick off a scrambled draw.

“If I have a chance for a shot, why not,” Mikheyev said.

Tavares said it’s good to see Mikheyev getting back into a groove.

“It’s great to see him get some confidence and get rewarded,” he said.

The desperate Oilers pulled Smith late for an extra attacker, but Campbell shut the door before Kerfoot scored into the empty net with 15 seconds remaining.

The nationally televised game was played without the NHL’s reigning MVP and devoid of atmosphere — save for canned crowd noise — with fans barred from Scotiabank Arena due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions in response to the pandemic’s fourth wave fueled by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

“I guess it could have gone either way after the second but we’re standing here again, leaving with no points,” Draisaitl said. “We’re not quitting on anyone. We’re not quitting on the coach, we’re not quitting on ourselves, or the team, the players, the goalies, nobody. Eventually you have to find a way to turn it around and obviously we’re hurting now with key players out. We’ve just got to figure it out.”

Zach Hyman returned to Toronto for the first time since the Maple Leafs after six seasons to sign a seven-year, $ 38.5-million contract with Edmonton last summer.

The Maple Leafs opened the scoring at 4:25 of the first when Nylander’s shot off the end boards was tipped by Tavares and accidentally kicked into the Edmonton net by Smith. It was the Toronto captain’s 14th of the campaign as the Oilers surrendered the first goal for an NHL-high 24th time this season.

Edmonton tied it at 9:58 when Colton Sceviour found Perlini in front off the rush for his second.

Draisaitl then gave the Oilaers a 2-1 lead just 1:14 later following some sustained pressure off a pass from Kailer Yamamoto for his league-leading 26th.

However, the Maple Leafs responded with 25.7 seconds left in the period when Brodie’s point shot hit the stick of Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard for his third of the season — and third in three games.

NOTES: Matthews and assistant coach Dean Chynoweth both produced positive rapid COVID-19 tests Monday morning. Each tested negative on subsequent PCR tests and were cleared. … Edmonton forward Zack Kassian exited protocol in time to suit up against Toronto.

UP NEXT

Oilers: Host Ottawa on Monday night.

Maple Leafs: At Colorado to open a four-game road trip.

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