The Maple Leafs are in Edmonton tonight to battle the Oilers.
There's certainly a lot of chippyness and hard hits early in the game, especially for two teams who haven't played each other in a while.
Here are my live in-game thoughts:
The Oilers lead the game 1-0 on a goal by Sam Gagner, his first of the year. A tough play for Vesa Toskala on this one. A broken play in which Toskala made a great first save, but threw the rebound right onto the stick of the young Canadian forward.
Jason Blake seems to be like his feisty self tonight. It's really the only thing that will keep him in the lineup at this point. While being with the Islanders, Blake was a pest who used his speed and chippy play to take people off his game and create scoring opportunities by going to the net. Blake is battling hard and going all out early in this game.
Not to sound like a softie, but the hit on Dominic Moore delivered by Zach Stortini was nothing short of a cheap shot. As Moore passed the puck, he was met by Stortini's elbow to the chops, resulting in some pushing and shoving.
Luke Schenn immediately challenged Stortini, but he turned down the chance to dance with the Leafs rookie d-man. There was no doubt that the timing of the hit was clean, but the fact that Stortini came up with an elbow to the face was definitely inexcusable.
The Maple Leafs produced a great start in the second period. Tomas Kaberle got the Leafs on the board with a powerplay goal to make it 1-1. Carlo Colaiacovo did a fantastic job pulling the Oilers defenders to the top of the zone, opening up time and space for Kaberle.
Moments later, the Maple Leafs took the lead on a goal orchestrated by Tomas Kaberle once again. Kaberle's wrist shot found its way through the crowd and was deflected in front of the net, past the Oilers netminder.
The goal was originally credited to Nik Kulemin, but I think upon review, it will be given to Matt Stajan. Regardless, great presence in front of the net for Toronto. The point on the goal ties Tomas Kaberle with Ian Turnbull for third in points among Leafs defenseman.
Ethan Moreau tied the game 2-2 for the Oilers. I won't lie, I didn't see it. I was putting my son to bed (hey, what can I say. We hang out a lot.) Oh, I just saw a replay of the goal. Glad I missed it. Toskala went down to stack the pads, and the Maple Leafs defense proceeded to allow Moreau several whacks at the puck, which he eventually put past the prone goaltender.
The Leafs took the lead late in the second, and while it's far from over, you got to be happy about that. With time winding down, and on an apparent offside, Nik Antropov wristed a shot past Jeff Deslauriers to give the Leafs a 3-2 lead heading into the final twenty minutes.
Despite travelling out of their time zone, the Maple Leafs look fresher out of the two. The Oilers are returning after a horrible road trip, and as the third period winds down, they look the more tired of the two.
I know I said earlier that Jason Blake had to play on the edge, but the interference penalty he took when he low-bridged Lubomir Visnovski was pretty dumb. It could have really hurt his team and the Oilers defenseman. Luckily for the Leafs, the Oilers couldn't cash in on the powerplay opportunity.
Nice to see Ian White get a goal. He deserves it for sure. He is persevering in the forward position and gives the Leafs some options. Suiting up as a forward, White can fill in on defense if an injury occurs, or on a powerplay.
A fantastic effort by Jason Blake and a sweet finish from Mikhail Grabovski puts Toronto up 5-2 in the closing minutes of this game. Blake used his speed to beat the Oilers defenseman to the outside, then threw it in front where the talented Grabovski was waiting to slap it in the back of the net.
With about three minutes to go, the Maple Leafs fans in attendance tonight (and there are lots) have begun to chant "na na na na hey hey hey goodbye!" It never gets old when the Leafs are on the road and the building is still filled with Leaf fans. It truly shows the spirit we have for this team.
Congrats to Tomas Kaberle, who picked up another point on the Grabovski goal, which will push him past Ian Turnbull and into sole possession of third place for all time points for a defenseman.
Final score: Toronto 5, Edmonton 2
Stat Pack: After Two
EDM: Sam Gagner (1) Assists: Grebeshkov, Hemsky
Ethan Moreau (5) Assists: Hemsky, Grebeshkov
Tor: Tomas Kaberle (2) Assists: Stajan, Colaiacovo
Nik Kulemin (3) Assists: Kaberle, Hagman
Nik Antropov (7) Assists: Stajan, Stralman
Ian White (2) Assists: Blake
Mikhail Grabovski (8) Assists: Blake, Kaberle
Shots On Goal
Next up for the Maple Leafs is a date with Kyle Wellwood, Roberto Luongo, and the rest of the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night on Hockey Night In Canada. Game time is 7 P.M. Eastern Time.
Just a quick reminder. I got the chance today to speak with my good friend Darren Dreger of TSN and AM640's Leafs Lunch. We spoke on a variety of topics including Brian Burke, headshots, and more.
The article will appear on Bleacher Report sometime this weekend, so be on the lookout for that.