“It was really cool, they came to see us before the game in the dressing room,” Pohl said. “It was really nice to meet the guys. And it was a nice ceremony. I think it did give us a boost.”
Pohl and captain Mats Sundin scored two goals apiece to lift the Leafs to a 4-3 win over the reeling Edmonton Oilers, the present-day edition of the hockey club giving the 19,599 fans at Air Canada Centre reason to dream at least of a playoff berth with yet another strong effort.
“Every win is huge at this time of year,” said Pohl, recording his first NHL career two-goal effort. “You especially need to grab those two points when you’re playing at home.”
Defenceman Tomas Kaberle had two assists while Andrew Raycroft stopped 28 shots for the win as the Leafs grabbed sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to losses by the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders on Saturday night.
“But it’s no time to relax,” said Sundin. “We can’t pat ourselves on the back because we’re in a playoff spot. There’s lots of work ahead of us.”
Ryan Smyth, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Steve Staios scored for the Oilers, who unlike the Leafs are headed in the opposite direction. Minnesota’s 4-1 win at Nashville on Saturday night put the Wild eight points ahead of the Oilers in the final Western Conference playoff spot.
“We’re squandering opportunities, but we haven’t run out of opportunity,” said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.
The Oilers fell to 0-2-1 on a seven-game road trip that will decide whether they’re buyers or sellers at the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
“Every game is critical from here on in, not just this road trip,” said Smyth, who scored his 29th on the season. “These are bonus points out East, and we didn’t get them.”
The Leafs forced turnovers with timely forechecking and limited Edmonton’s chances with a tight defensive effort, which has become their trademark of late.
“We made too many mistakes tonight,” said MacTavish. “We had them making a fair number of mistakes, too, but we didn’t capitalize.”
Toronto got the only goal in an evenly played first period, Sundin’s one-time blast on a power play at 11:59 set up by a beauty of a pass from Kaberle, who was a force all game long.
Pohl made it 2-0 when he deflected a centring pass from Bates Battaglia behind Dwayne Roloson 4:31 into the second period. The Oilers responded 47 seconds later, Staios blasting a shot from the point that beat a screened Raycroft.
It was Pohl again who restored his team’s two-goal advantage at 11:24, slipping in a rebound past Roloson after Chad Kilger stripped the puck from Petr Nedved as the Czech centre tried to skate out of the Edmonton zone.
The rookie Pouliot gut the lead to 3-2 when he coolly deked out Raycroft on a penalty shot with 2:09 in the middle period.
But Sundin, with his 25th of the season, sealed it midway through the third period with wrap-around goal that nearly blew open the roof at Air Canada Centre, the Leafs dominating the last half of the game.
A Smyth deflection made it 4-3 with 1:03 left, giving the Oilers faint hope but they couldn’t tie it with Roloson on the bench for a sixth attacker.
Notes: Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on hand and made a point of meeting ’67 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Dave Keon … Boyd Devereaux (wrist) was a surprise scratch for Toronto … Oilers GM Kevin Lowe said contract talks with Ryan Smyth’s agent Don Meehan that were supposed to take place Saturday have been pushed back, likely to Sunday or Monday in Naples, Fla., where the NHL’s GMs are meeting. Meehan has a home in Naples and will also be down for a few days. Smyth is slated to be an unrestricted free agent July 1 … Leafs GM John Ferguson said contract talks with Darcy Tucker remain “positive” but still no agreement in place. Tucker is also slated for unrestricted free agency.