TORONTO – Everything that Phil Kessel touches at the moment seems to result in a goal.
Kessel had two goals and two assists on Tuesday as the Toronto Maple Leafs won their second game in a row, defeating the Edmonton Oilers 4-0.
The 26-year-old winger has now recorded seven goals and 10 points in his last four games to move into a tie for second place in the NHL’s point-scoring race.
“I’ve just been getting a couple of good bounces right now,” Kessel said. “I’ve had some good passes and some guys have been making some good plays. I’ve been pretty fortunate. I’m just playing the game and trying to help the team win.”
Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle has been satisfied with how Kessel has found his game after recording just two assists in his previous four games.
“Puck luck is part of it, but skilled players find a way to get goals,” he said. “The puck kind of follows those guys around. He doesn’t need many opportunities to score.
James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri also scored for the Maple Leafs (9-4-0) who have won three of their last four to take over sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, moving ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
James Reimer stopped 43 shots for his 11th career shutout.
“As a team, I don’t think we want to give up 40-plus shots, but having said that, I don’t think it was as dangerous as the quantity suggested,” Reimer said. “Our defence and our whole team did a heck of a job of eliminating second chances. Edmonton played well and came at us, but I thought we protected the house really well.”
Richard Bachman stopped 22 shots for the Oilers (3-9-2), who have now lost four straight.
“You look at that game and it was about who finishes chances and who doesn’t tonight for me,” said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. “I don’t believe we were outcompeted, outhit, outtoughed, outshot. We were outfinished, that’s what we were. We talked about that, the Toronto Maple Leafs, they’re a team that doesn’t have the puck a whole lot, they’ve been outshot a lot this season. But if you give them the opportunity, they will score. They have guys that can put it in the net and they showed that tonight.”
Edmonton outshot the Leafs 43-26.
“We didn’t find a way to score,” said Oilers forward Sam Gagner, who played his first game of the season. “It’s a results-based league, it doesn’t matter, you can’t sit back and think things are good because we got a lot of shots. We have to find a way to score, that’s all that really matters.”
Toronto started the scoring just over a minute into the game on their first shot of the contest. Kadri made a nice play to hook a pass to a hard-charging Kessel on his way to the net and he was able to fake out Oilers goalie Bachman with a quick move to score his eighth goal of the season.
Edmonton had its chances in the fast-paced first period. Most notably on a drop pass from Nail Yakupov that defender Nick Schultz shot wide of an empty net.
Bachman was able to keep it a one-goal game early in the second on a big glove save on Mason Raymond, but couldn’t do it again a minute later as Kessel dished a two-on-one pass off to van Riemsdyk, and he chipped it into the net.
Toronto went up 3-0 with 11 minutes left in the second period as Bachman lost track of a deflected shot that went behind the net and Kessel displayed his skill by barely pulling the puck over the goal-line before putting it in the roof of the cage for his second goal of the night.
The Maple Leafs added to their lead six minutes into the third period as Morgan Rielly finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play by rifling a puck off of Kadri and in.
“I thought it hit him,” said Rielly, who was originally credited with his first career NHL goal. “He tried to give me credit for it at the start, but I said if it hit him he should have it. I’m not too worried about it. I’m just glad we got the win.”
Kadri also had two assists in the game.
The Maple Leafs are right back at it in Calgary on Wednesday to play the Flames. The Oilers remain home to face the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
Notes: It was the second and final of two meetings this season. The Maple Leafs beat the Oilers 6-5 in overtime on Oct. 12 in the previous meeting as Joffrey Lupul scored with under a minute left to force the extra period before Dave Bolland scored the winner…Lupul drew back into the Toronto lineup after missing the last two games with a foot injury…Out for the Leafs were scratched defenceman John-Michael Liles and forward Troy Bodie and injured players included forwards Nikolai Kulemin (ankle), Tyler Bozak (lower body) and defenceman Mark Fraser (knee)…Oilers forward David Perron was a late scratch with an illness. The Oilers remained without injured players Steve MacIntyre (knee), Corey Potter (back), Ryan Hamilton (knee), Jesse Joensuu (back), Ryan Smyth (groin) and Taylor Hall (knee)…The Leafs have now been outshot in 10 straight games and in 11 of their first 13 match-ups this season…Oilers centre Sam Gagner made his return to the Edmonton lineup after missing 13 games due to a broken jaw suffered in the pre-season after taking a since Zack Kassian stick to the face. Gagner wore a full face shield in his return…Richard Bachman got his second career start in the Edmonton net after being called up from Oklahoma City with starter Devan Dubnyk suffering an ankle injury. Bachman made 47 of 48 stops in a 2-1 overtime loss to the L.A. Kings on Sunday.