Were the Leafs too chicken? Or too smart?
It depends on which logo you had on your hockey sweater Tuesday at Rexall Place, and with the Toronto in town it was about 50-50.
But on a night when the Edmonton Oilers were spoiling for a fight, the visitors played the turtle card to perfection.
In the end, it amounted to the frustrated Oilers spending more time in the box than Jack himself, and losing the game because of it.
“Four minor penalties in the second period and none of them inside our blueline, end of story,” said head coach Tom Renney, who didn’t quite end the story there. “And a powerplay that was crappy. We took ourselves out of the game in the second period.”
That’s where the Leafs gained sweet revenge for a 5-0 home-ice spanking two weeks ago, using eight minutes of power play time to grab the momentum in an easy 4-1 victory.
“When you spend the entire second period killing penalties it wears on you,” said defenceman Theo Peckham. “It’s tough to get momentum going when some of your top players are sitting on the bench and the PK guys are constantly going out.”
The Leafs only scored one power play goal in those four chances, but playing half the period down a man sucked the life out of the Oilers, who also gave up even strength goal to fall behind 3-1 after 40.
“Everyone in here knows what went wrong tonight,” said Sam Gagner. “We played really well when it was five-on-five in the first, we created a lot of chances and played a lot in their end.”
The Oilers third and fourth lines spent most of the night trying to pound a Leafs team that spent most of the night trying to pick their spots.
There was Dion Phaneuf taunting the Oilers bench, then refusing to even make eye contact with Peckham when the Oilers defenceman challenged him on it. He did find time to rough up Taylor Hall, though.
There was Colton Orr, who spent the entire evening running away from Steve MacIntyre like he was covered in gas and the Oilers tough guy was smoking a cigar.
Orr finally found an escape hatch in Zack Stortini, who he beat in a marathon fight late in the second.
“He’s pretty selective,” Renney said of Orr. “He has scrapped with Storts before and he didn’t do too well with Mac in Toronto. Same thing with Phaneuf, he’s selective too.
“Our guys don’t discriminate.”
When Phaneuf and Orr turned tail, the Oilers set out to punish somebody else, and the ensuing penalties killed them. Gilbert Brule for elbowing, Stortini for kneeing, MacIntyre for roughing and a too many men at 2:24, 6:38, 12:29 and 14:40 gave Toronto all the momentum.
“The players who were generating offence for us, who had the flow going, had the attack game going for us, we weren’t able to get them on the ice with the regular flow and that hurt us,” said Renney. “And when we got our power play on the ice it was insufficient.”
Were the Oilers outsmarted?
“It’s possible,” said Renney. “When I think back on it, yeah, that’s something to talk about with them.”
It’s the second loss in a row and second game in a row they’ve been held to one goal at home. Jordan Eberle is the only Oiler to score in the last 120 minutes.
“The guys in here are definitely not too happy, and that’s a good thing,” said Peckham. “We’re not taking this lightly.”
Suddenly they don’t look much like the team that went 7-2-2
“We have to understand that success is fleeting,” said Renney. “It’s a whole attitude, you have to earn it every single shift. We have to develop the resolve to deal with things when they’re going tough, or when they’re going well.”
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