Hockey

Oilers end losing streak with win over Leafs

The Edmonton Oilers ended a seven-game losing streak by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 on Wednesday.

Toronto begins two-game western swing on sour note

When you're neither scoring nor winning you'll take whatever help is offered.

The Edmonton Oilers took advantage of three gifts on Wednesday night to beat an often befuddled looking Toronto Maple Leafs team by a 3-1 score, breaking off a seven-game losing string for the home side.

"It was a long time coming," said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. "We probably should have won four of those seven games we lost but we always found ways not to do it. And you could tell our guys got scared again after that one goal. But I'm glad we got this win. We needed it for a lot of reasons."

It also opened up some offence from a club that has scored just one goal in each of the last three defeats and 12 over the seven losses.

Gilbert Brule scored in the first, and a pair by Patrick O'Sullivan split over the following two periods were all the Oilers needed to improve to 16-20-4.

"It's tough coming to the rink every day when you're losing games. Tonight was a full 60-minute effort and we got the result we wanted," O'Sullivan said.

"It's a good feeling, now we don't have to think about the fact that we've lost a number of games in a row. Now we can think about the things that we did well. We're in a difficult spot right now, it's desperation time, really, for our team. Everyone realizes that."

Goaltender Jeff Deslauriers picked up the win, giving up a late goal on a power play to Phil Kessel. The Leafs missed the net more than 20 times with shots.

"We knew they were going to be a desperate team with how things have been going for them of late," Kessel said. "We were in that spot at the beginning of the year. They took it to us right from the start. We didn't get many shots and didn't play our game.

"They played harder than us tonight. We are a forechecking team, that's how we get our chances, and we didn't do enough of that to sustain some pressure."

Toronto (14-18-9) had come into the first of a two-game western road trip riding a high after beating the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night.

And they did come out in the first period looking like they wanted this one, too. But a refusal to get in front of Deslauriers and a bad goal given up by Vesa Toskala changed the momentum in favour of the Oilers.

Toskala's penchant for giving up stinkers at bad moments popped up again in the last minute of a first period the Leafs had dominated for long stretches.

Brule broke down the right side and when he reached the face-off dot, unloaded a hard shot that eluded Toskala and gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead.

That was the 29th time this season Toronto has given up the opening goal, 24 of them turning into losses.

The Leafs goaltender pulled himself together in the second frame, making a couple of outstanding stops to rob Dustin Penner and Tom Gilbert.

Then Toskala's luck ran out as a centring backhand by O'Sullivan on a power play glanced off defenceman Ian White's skate and straight into the goal for a 2-0 Edmonton lead.

"Sometimes you get the bounces on your side and sometimes they are against you," Toskala said. "There is not much you can do about it."

Gift No. 3 came early in the third period and put the game away.

Gilbert put a little dump pass up the middle that Edmonton Eskimos' quarterback Ricky Ray would have been proud off, hitting O'Sullivan in stride just as he burst through a startled pair of Leafs' defenders.

This one might have been offside, but none of the Oilers cared, especially after watching O'Sullivan put a nifty deke and a perfect little backhand through the legs of Toskala for a 3-0 lead.

Edmonton moves on to Calgary for a New Year's Eve game, while the Leafs face the Flames on Saturday night.

With files from The Canadian Press

now