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Toronto Maple Leafs' Mitchell Marner hits the post behind Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith as Oilers' Cody Ceci looks on during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Jan. 5.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

It took a bit but the Maple Leafs wore down the undermanned Oilers for a victory at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday night.

Ilya Mikheyev scored the winning goal on a power play in the third period in a 4-2 triumph that was much harder than the final margin seemed. Alexander Kerfoot added an empty netter with 15 seconds left to clinch Toronto’s fourth straight win and eighth in the last 11 games.

The loss was the fifth straight for Edmonton and the 11th in its 13 contests. After winning nine of their first 10 games and 16 of their first 21, the Oilers have sunk to 18-14-2. The Maple Leafs are 22-8-2 and grappling with Tampa Bay and Florida for first place in the NHL’s Atlantic Division.

In all defence, it has not been much fun to be an Oiler lately.

On Wednesday, hours before the game, Edmonton’s slumping aggregation learned it would be without superstar Connor McDavid, defenceman Tyson Barrie and centre Derek Ryan, all of whom were placed in COVID-19 protocol. Then the team moved Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who plays on the first line with McDavid and Zach Hyman, to the injured-reserve list.

Among them, the four have 27 goals and 98 points this year.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Dave Tippett, the Oilers head coach, said ruefully following the morning skate. “We are just feeding the drip, drip, drip thing and it is not ideal at all. It wreaks havoc with your lineup for sure.”

The Oilers entered Wednesday night with four successive losses, all opn the road. The Porsche that purred in October and November arrived in Toronto with its engine sputtering and tires leaking air.

You have to hand it to them for the game effort they put in, but they were eventually worn down by the Maple. Mikheyev’s goal was his third in as many games after missing the first two months of the season with injuries.

The game’s timing was poor for Edmonton for an encounter with a Toronto team that is as healthy as it has been and is among the leaders in the Eastern Conference.

They are two teams headed in opposite directions and when it comes to good fortune, Toronto’s Auston Matthews, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday, was cleared to play after a second negative test in as many days. Matthews has had two false-positives in the past week.

On the Edmonton side of the bad-luck ruler, its own players kicked in the Maple Leafs’ first two goals.

Mike Smith, the Oilers veteran goalie, probably deserved a better fate. He also missed most of the first two months of the season due to injury but turned away a number of dangerous shots in the defeat. He ended up with 29 saves.

After giving up the opening salvo to John Tavares less than five minutes in, the Oilers battled back to tie it midway through the first period on Brendan Perlini’s second goal of the season. A minute and 12 seconds later, Leon Draisaitl tapped in a pass across the goalmouth from Kailer Yamamoto to put Edmonton up. It was Draisaitl’s NHL-leading 26th goal.

The Oilers are unbeaten in 10 games when they have led after the first 20 minutes and were poised to go the dressing room with a lead when T.J. Brodie had a shot deflect off an opposing player’s skate past Smith.

That is the way Edmonton’s luck has been going. It has given up the opening goal in 12 of the past 13 games but battled back on Wednesday only to cough up the lead on a strange one. Then they did it again, and nearly twice more. One Toronto shot bounced off the Oilers’ Darnell Nurse, flew in the air, landed on Smith’s head and barely missed going into the net behind him.

“For us, there are no excuses,” Nurse said. “We have to work our way out of this.”

Jack Campbell started in the home team’s net opposite Smith. Campbell, who entered the game 16-5-2 with a .939 save percentage, was beaten on two well-played rushes in the first period.

“You knew they would come out and make a push early and they scored a couple of nice goals,” Campbell said. “I thought the game had a playoff feel and it was a great battle and we were able to sneak away with two points.”

The game was the first in Toronto for Hyman since he signed with the Oilers in the offseason. He was celebrated in a video tribute early on. He ranked among the Maple Leafs’ most popular players over six seasons but there were no fans on hand to applaud his return because of restrictions caused by COVID-19.

“He was a huge part of the team and an unbelievable guy,” William Nylander, the Toronto forward, said. Nylander was credited with two assists and has now taken over the team lead with 35 points. The goal was the 14th for Tavares.

“It was a hard-fought win,” the Maple Leafs captain, said. “The Oilers are a desperate team and are looking to get back on track. They battled hard. It wasn’t our prettiest effort but you compete to the end and you find a way.”

Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe expected just the type of effort that his team received from the woe-begone Oilers.

“I am happy we found our way back,” Keefe said. “We got the lead and got a little bit sloppy and all of a sudden we were behind 2-1. We gave them life, which we did not want to do.”

Smith ended up with 29 saves in 32 shots. Edmonton pulled him for the last 80 seconds and pressured Campbell but could not beat him. The latter stopped 28 of 30 pucks he faced.

Toronto does not play again until Saturday when it begins a road trip in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche. The Oilers head home after an 0-5 post-Christmas road trip simply hoping for a break of some kind.