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Leafs booed off the ice after loss to Oilers

Ryan Whitney #6, Taylor Hall #4 and Jordan Eberle #14 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate goal during game action against the New Jersey Devils at the Air Canada Centre December 2, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Abelimages/2010 Getty Images

Call it a tale of two rebuilds.

One, in the Edmonton Oilers, with recently drafted stars like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle dazzling in their Toronto debut as they helped cap an impressive Eastern Canada road swing with a third consecutive win.

The other, in the Toronto Maple Leafs, hit an all new low on the season, booed off the ice after a 5-0 loss that was their 16th defeat in the past 20 games.

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The best - and worst - of times, indeed.

In a game that came billed as young versus youngest and pitted the two organizations which finished last and second last in the NHL a year ago, it was the fruits of the Oilers' struggles the past four seasons that really shone through.

Eberle kicked things off with his fifth career goal just three minutes in, blowing past Leafs veteran Tomas Kaberle 1-on-1 and wiring a wrist shot through netminder Jonas Gustavsson.

Hall, who had several good chances in the game, then scored early in the second on a seeing-eye backhand to chase Gustavsson from the crease after two goals on six Oilers shots.

Things weren't much better for Jean-Sébastien Giguère, however, as Sam Gagner converted a pretty give-and-go play by going hard to the net and whacking in a rebound for his eighth goal.

In all, it was a marvellous showcase of the young talent Edmonton has stockpiled of late, with first-rounders from 2007, 2008 and 2010 all potting goals in a 23-minute span to bring on the boos at the Air Canada Centre.

Hall and Ryan Jones then added insult to injury with two goals in the dying minutes of the game.

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Rookie watch

A closer look at how the four marquee rookies in the game fared on Thursday:

Jordan Eberle, Oilers: Finished with a goal and two assists, giving him 18 points in his first 25 NHL games, and impressed on a dangerous first line with Shawn Horcoff and Hall.

Taylor Hall, Oilers: Two weeks after his 19th birthday, the most recent No. 1 overall pick was the game's first star, making veterans like Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin look silly more than once.

Magnus Paajarvi, Oilers: The quietest of the rookies, the smooth Swede picked up an nice assist on Gagner's goal.

Nazem Kadri, Leafs: Nearly scored his first NHL goal late in the second period on a wraparound, but Nikolai Khabibulin made a sprawling goal line stop to deny the chance.

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Goalie watch

Khabibulin had struggled this season coming into the game, with a 4-10-1 record and .879 save percentage, but he was solid in making 33 saves to keep the Leafs out of the game in the early going.

It was the sixth time Toronto has been shutout in the last 16 games.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson's decision to pull Gustavsson, meanwhile, was a little curious given Hall's goal was of the unstoppable variety, but the move was likely aimed more at the rest of the team than his netminder.

It was the first time this season Gustavsson has been pulled and came in his seventh consecutive start in place of the injured Giguère, who was back as the backup for the first time in more than two weeks and likely wished he had stayed in the press box given the way the team played in front of him.

Boo birds come out

With a few minutes remaining in the third period, a considerable portion of the ACC crowd began a chant of "Fire Wilson," which came on the heels of sustained boos throughout the final frame.

Things may not get much better on Saturday night with the Boston Bruins coming to town, as if rookie Tyler Seguin - drafted one spot after Hall with a pick the Leafs traded away - has a big night, that could be more than the Toronto faithful can bear.

Booing hasn't been all that plentiful in the ACC in general manager Brian Burke's tenure, but it's beginning to pick up, a sign that even the diehards willing to fork out hundreds of dollars for tickets to watch a bottom feeder may finally be growing restless.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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