Player grades: Mike Smith steals a win as Edmonton Oilers beat Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2

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Goalie Mike Smith stole this one for the Oilers. Smith was sensational in the nets, including a stupendous save off Auston Matthews in OT.

On a day when Edmonton’s stars Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Tyson Barrie and Darnell Nurse all struggled mightily on defence, Smith was the difference maker. He got stronger as the game went on, looking more and more like the Leafs were simply not going to be able to beat him again. That’s how Grant Fuhr used to look in big games. Now the Oil are getting it from a 39-year-old Smith.

Astonishing but entirely welcome.

In the end, the Leafs had 11 chances to seven for the Oilers (running count).

Connor McDavid, 4. His mark gets bumped up for his overtime feed to Nurse, but this was far from his “A” game. He let Auston Matthews creep into the slot for a Grade A chance in the first. He worked his way into the slot himself off of a faceoff for his first major contribution to a Grade A chance seven minutes into the second period. He got tripped a few moments later, but no penalty call and it led to a dangerous chance against the Oilers. He was three faceofffs, lost eight. The Oilers got outshot 9-to-14 when he was on the ice.

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Leon Draisaitl, 3. A weak defensive effort. He made an o-zone turnover early in the game that almost led to Leafs breakaway, but Darnell Nurse was able to track down Zach Hyman. Later in the first, he was part of the Edmonton crew that failed to check Auston Matthews around the Edmonton net for Toronto’s second goal. He didn’t look sharp much of the game, his misfirings personified when he made three straight turnovers on Edmonton’s early third period power play, all of them leading to Leafs clearances. His backcheck was also weak when John Tavares barged in late in the game and dinged it off the post. After losing the opening face-off in OT, he took a second to adjust his helmet, and his momentary equipment adjustment allowed Matthews in for a Grade A chance. And he was only six for 17 on the dot.

Jesse Puljujarvi, 5. He hustled hard, but did not shine. The play died on his stick quite a bit.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 5. His line did OK. Not good. Just OK. He battled hard but ultimately allowed a slot pass to Alex Galchenyuk in the first, which ended up as a Grade A shot against. He was slow on a first period line change, which contributed to Toronto’s first goal. But he won a battle on Edmonton’s second goal.

Kyle Turris, 5. He played his part in the sequence of pain on Toronto’s first goal, failing to back track quickly enough to cut out a key pass. Turnovers by him and Russell allowed for a long and dangerous Toronto cycle in the second. He did the right thing, though, going hard to the net, and puck deflected in off of him for Edmonton’s tying goal. Sweet. Good things come out of good habits — and going to the net is one good habit.

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Kailer Yamamoto, 7. Without his hustle, the Oilers do not win this one. His strong and aggressive back check thwarted a threatening Mitch Marner rush in the second. He worked hard again, then made an eyes-up pass to Turris for a Grade B shot early in the third. A moment later his pile-driving forecheck popped the puck, then on the virtuous cycle it went back to Adam Larsson, who pounded it home off Turris. A slick pass from 56 led to a Draisaitl one-timer in the third as well.

Gaetan Haas, 5. Played under nine minutes. Skated fast and hard. He took a penalty but also drew one off of Wayne Simmonds. His line got out-shot but gave up little of consequence in terms of dangerous chances.

Tyler Ennis, 6. Buzzed around, looked effective, made some plays.

Zack Kassian, 6. He played a hard, smart, intense Big Bobby Clobber of a game.

Jujhar Khaira, 7. The depth lines on the Oiles held their own in this one, and Khaira was a big part of that. His line with Josh Archibald and Devin Shore had some lengthy o-zone cycles in the second period. He won eight of 13 faceoffs.

Josh Archibald, 7. Beauty of a breakaway goal. Solid game defending.

Devin Shore, 6. Worked hard and was part of an effectiveline. He got off a couple decent Grade B scoring chance shots in the second, one that hit the side of the net, another on the PK.

Darnell Nurse, 5. He scored the OT goal so he gets a passing grade, but he was headed for a poor grade until that moment. Five major mistakes on Grade A chances against will do that to you. And he missed the net from the slot off a great Draisaitl with just a few seconds left in the game. Great look but if you don’t hit the net, you can’t score. He and Barrie were iffy defensively on the top-pairing. They were saved when their malfunctioned passing sequence in the first period ended up on Auston Matthews’ stick in the slot, but he missed the net and what would have been a five-arm chance. Another bad turnover in the second let to a hard Matthews slot shot, but again he missed the net.

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Tyson Barrie, 2. If a d-man is doing his job, he’ll make one major mistake on a Grade A chance against in a game. Barrie made eight. There were simply far too many nightmarish moments on defence when he was on the ice. The Oilers were outshot 4-to-18 when he was on the ice. He and Nurse were leaky in the first, allowing a slot jam snot and permitting other trouble as well. A moment later he and Draisaitl got outworked down low on Auston Matthews’ goal. His bobble of the puck at the blue line was also the main factor Ilya Mikheyev’s five alarm cross-seam chance in the second. A turnover to Kerfoot late in the second led to an extended and threatening Toronto cycle. The defensive woes continued on the third when he was into the slot and two Grade A Leafs chances erupted. With five minutes let Galchenyuk feed it to John Tavares in Edmonton’s crease, but Smith shut the door. After a third period turnover and scary moment where Matthews again missed the net, Barrie caught Matthews’ skate in the face, an extremely frightening play to be sure.

Adam Larsson, 8. The Oil’s best player was Larsson, who bossed the game on defence and made a key play on the tying goal. He flattened Wayne Simmonds with a check early in the game. A bit later he blasted Alexander Kerfoot to the ice. His hard shot at net early in the third went in off of Turris. Edmonton outshot the Leafs  nine-to-five when he was on the ice. Plus he kept a clean sheet on defence, not even one major mistake on a Grade A chance against. He led the Oilers with seven hits.

William Lagesson, 5. Nothing too great, nothing too bad in 10:46 of ice time.

Kris Russell, 7. Typical Kris Russel game, a solid defence effort. His pass led to Archibald’s breakaway.

Ethan Bear, 7. Solid game on defence, moved the puck well, defended well.

Mike Smith, 9. He looked so sharp this game you would think Henry Singer fashioned his pads and uniform. He stopped 29 of 31 shots in total. He made a few big saves in the first, but also let in two goals. His sensational save on Mikheyev in the second kept his team in the game. He came up huge again in OT, stoning Marner-to-Matthews on a two-on-one.

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