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McMann, Holmberg lead Leafs over Oilers

TORONTO – Bobby McMann had two goals and an assist as the Toronto Maple Leafs built a 5-0 lead before hanging on to beat Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers 6-3 on Saturday night.

Pontus Holmberg also scored twice, while William Nylander had a goal and set up another for Toronto (40-20-9) before Auston Matthews added his NHL-leading 58th into an empty net.

John Tavares and Timothy Liljegren chipped in with two assists each. Ilya Samsonov made 31 saves before leaving injured with 3:39 left in regulation. Martin Jones stopped five shots in mop-up duty.

Former Leafs winger Zach Hyman, Corey Perry and Leon Draisaitl replied for Edmonton (42-22-4), which entered 9-1-2 over its last 12. McDavid had three assists to give him 89 on the season.

Stuart Skinner allowed five goals on 23 shots in two periods of work for the Oilers. Calvin Pickard made five stops in relief.

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The talk coming into Saturday’s showcase matchup was dominated by McDavid and Matthews’ pursuit of jaw-dropping milestones, along with Hyman sitting two goals short of 50 on the season.

Toronto’s supporting cast instead stole the show down a handful of sick or injured regulars.

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McDavid is looking to become just the fourth different player in NHL history — and the first since Wayne Gretzky in 1990-91 — to hit 100 assists, while Matthews has 57 goals and could become the first player since 1992-93 to register 70.

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After the Leafs killed off an early penalty, McMann opened the scoring with his 12th goal of 2023-24 at 4:17 of the first period before Nylander put the home side up two with his 39th on a slick power-play deflection at 18:14.

Samsonov made a windmill glove save worthy of a hockey card off a blast by Edmonton defenceman Brett Kulak early in the second.

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Holmberg scored his fifth at 8:02 for a 3-0 lead after Matthews won a race for the puck and Max Domi unselfishly found the forward for a wide-open net.

The Swede added his second of the night 3:02 later on a 3-on-1 after the Leafs killed another penalty when he chipped his shot over Skinner.

Samsonov robbed Hyman, who never had more than 21 goals in his five seasons with Toronto before departing in free agency in July 2021, of his 49th goal later in the period.

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McMann then wired his 13th upstairs on Skinner at 15:46 for a 5-0 lead through 40 minutes.

Hyman got that 49th goal on a power play 4:59 into the third before Perry added his 10th on another man advantage at 8:32.

Draisaitl scored his 36th with 3:39 left and Pickard on the bench for an extra attacker on a sequence that saw Samsonov get hurt and depart.

The Oilers continued to press, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hitting the post, but Toronto held on before Matthews iced it.

The Leafs were minus injured forwards Mitch Marner (high ankle sprain) and Calle Jarnkrok (hand), while winger Tyler Bertuzzi and defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin both missed out with an illness.

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T.J. Brodie was a healthy scratch for the second straight game as the team looks to give the usually dependable blueliner a mental reset down the stretch of a difficult season before the playoffs.

LOOKING AHEAD

With the men’s international hockey calendar set through the 2026 Olympics, McDavid said following the morning skate he’s pondered what Canada’s lineup could look like at next year’s NHL 4 Nations Face-Off — and beyond.

“It’s so exciting for hockey, so exciting for guys my age,” he said. “Some of these guys that haven’t really had the opportunity.”

MURRAY SIGHTING

Leafs goaltender Matt Murray, who had hip surgery before the season, was on the ice before Friday’s practice taking some shots from teammates.

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said the session was the 29-year-old’s “biggest step” to date in his recovery.

“Great sign,” Keefe added. “(But) he’s a long ways away from being an option for games.”

UP NEXT

Toronto: Visits Carolina on Sunday.

Edmonton: Visits Ottawa on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2024.

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&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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