TORONTO (AP)The Edmonton Oilers didn’t want to put too much emphasis on their ninth and final regular-season meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But it was evident this one mattered a little more than most.
Darnell Nurse scored 17 seconds into overtime Monday and the Oilers battled back to down the Leafs 3-2 and snap a four-game losing streak against the North Division leaders.
”We knew what we were capable of,” Nurse said. ”A big win for us.”
Nurse scored his 12th goal of the season – which leads all NHL blue-liners – off a pass from Connor McDavid after Oilers goalie Mike Smith robbed Auston Matthews on a 2-on-1 right off the opening faceoff in the extra period.
The clincher came 48 hours after Matthews pinballed a shot home in Toronto’s 4-3 OT victory over Edmonton, with the winner coming off Nurse’s skate.
”That’ll be the joke – two overtime goals back to back,” Nurse said with a grin. ”It’s good to be on the other side of it.”
Josh Archibald and Kyle Turris scored in regulation for Edmonton, while Smith stopped 29 shots. McDavid, who tops the league with 63 points, extended his point streak to 11 games.
The Leafs swept the Oilers three straight by a combined 13-1 score in the Alberta capital earlier this month, but the games between the two clubs have otherwise been close in 2021.
”We look at the body of work,” said Nurse, whose team is two points back of Toronto in the standings. ”Obviously we have those three games where they smoked us on home ice. The six (other) games we played tight, played hard. That’s more indicative of our play and how we are as a team.
”We have a lot of confidence.”
Matthews, with his NHL-leading 23rd goal, and Mitch Marner, with a goal and an assist, scored for Toronto, which got 20 saves from Michael Hutchinson. Justin Holl added two assists the Leafs fell to 6-1-2 against the Oilers.
”We’re both teams that like to play fast and like to play with the puck,” Matthews said. ”I thought throughout this year we played pretty solid against them. It would have been really nice to get this extra point here tonight because we’re not seeing them again until maybe playoffs.
”It still kind of stings, but all in all so far this year we played pretty well.”
Nurse, who scored his 11th of the season Saturday, has taken massive strides offensively in the NHL’s pandemic-shortened season.
”Guys that put the work in and are passionate to get better, you like to see them get the results,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. ”It’s a great feather in the cap, and there’s a lot of young players that should be looking at what he’s doing and recognizing that’s how you get better.”
Hutchinson got the start with Jack Campbell (leg) not at 100 percent and Frederik Andersen out with a lower-body injury. Campbell, who moved to 6-0-0 this season with Toronto’s 4-3 OT win over Edmonton on Saturday, got the night off with No. 4 option Veini Vehvilainen serving as the backup.
Hutchinson made 31 saves in a 3-0 shutout of the Oilers on March 1 as part of that sweep, but was pulled after allowing two goals on three shots against the Ottawa Senators in his previous start.
The Oilers will now head back to Montreal for a Tuesday game at the Bell Centre to make up one of the three games postponed last week when two Canadiens were placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. The Leafs, meanwhile, open a four-game road trip through Winnipeg and Calgary on Wednesday.
Down 2-1 through 40 minutes, the Oilers evened things up 1:20 into the third period when Adam Larsson’s point shot went in off Turris, who was on the COVID-19 protocol list from March 9 to 15 and returned to the lineup after sitting out the last eight games, for his second goal of the season.
”I was starting to get my legs back and starting to feel better,” Turris said. ”For that to hit at that time, it was a bit frustrating.”
William Nylander and Alex Galchenyuk came close to putting Toronto back in front midway through the period, but were both denied before John Tavares rang a shot off the crossbar.
Smith played his part early in OT to set up the winner.
”He’s been unbelievable,” Nurse said. ”Whenever you have a guy back there playing like that, it’s a lot of confidence within the group.”
Edmonton opened the scoring at 6:15 of the first when Josh Archibald blew past Toronto’s defense following a faceoff in the Oilers’ end and beat Hutchinson on a breakaway move to the backhand for his sixth.
But Marner answered for the Leafs just 1:44 later when he took a pass from Zach Hyman down low, stepped around Edmonton blue-liner Tyson Barrie and outwaited Smith before scoring his 13th.
Matthews then gave Toronto its first lead at 11:08 when he collected a loose puck at the side of the net, wheeled out to get a better angle and roofed his 23rd upstairs on Smith’s short side.
Ilya Mikheyev had a chance to put the Leafs up by two five minutes into the second, but Smith was at full stretch to stop the speedy winger.
Toronto’s power play, which entered Monday fourth in the NHL despite riding a 1-for-22 stretch, got the game’s first man advantage with 7:30 left in the period, but the best look was on a Matthews one-timer that whistled wide.
”They’re a measuring stick team in our division,” Tippett said. ”We wanted to come in and play well.”
NOTES: McDavid’s 11-game point streak includes seven goals and 16 assists. … Vehvilainen, who has 10 minutes, 40 seconds of NHL game experience, was acquired March 12 from the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Mikko Lehtonen.
Oilers: At Montreal on Tuesday night to wrap up a three-game trip.
Maple Leafs: At Winnipeg on Wednesday night to open a two-game series and four-game trip.
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