McDavid’s magic touch car­ried Oil­ers to vic­tory

Team cap­tain clearly mo­ti­vated to be both an in­spi­ra­tion and leader in these play­offs

Ottawa Citizen - - Sports+classified - TERRY JONES Ed­mon­ton

Gret­zky and goaltendin­g. That used to be the for­mula.

McDavid and net­mind­ing. Works just as well.

Yes, there’s all sorts of other pieces and parts at play. You need most of them go­ing most games to win a Stan­ley Cup play­off se­ries. But if you’ve got the two prime com­po­nents, Con­nor McDavid and goaltendin­g, you have a chance to beat any­body in a play­off game.

And that was about as big of a game as you could man­u­fac­ture as a test for to­day’s McDavid-Leon Drai­saitl era Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers here Mon­day. A loss and hub host Ed­mon­ton would have had to become only the second team in the his­tory of NHL be­stof-five play­off se­ries teams to go down 2-0 and come back to win the se­ries. Fifty-five of the first 56 to try that have failed.

McDavid was magic as he scored two gorgeous goals early and reg­is­tered his first play­off hat trick in leading the Oil­ers to a 6-3 win over Chicago to tie the se­ries 1-1. Ryan Nu­gent-Hop­kins made some Oil­ers play­off his­tory, be­com­ing the first player to open a play­off se­ries with con­sec­u­tive three-point games.

McDavid’s second of the night as he danced down the ice some­how con­trol­ling a bounc­ing puck, was a def­i­nite entry as one of his greatest goals ever.

McDavid has been an ab­so­lute study since the Oil­ers re­turned to play, clearly mo­ti­vated to be all he can be as an in­spi­ra­tion and a leader. It’s like the 23-year-old has de­cided this is the per­fect time and place to prove his great­ness beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I have no idea if he walked across the ped­way from the

J.W. Mar­riott to Rogers Place on Mon­day dur­ing the thun­der­storm that pre­ceded the game think­ing about a tweet pro­duced by a re­spected long­time Amer­i­can hockey writer ear­lier in the day. But that tweet is the kind of thing most greats of the game have to en­dure un­til they win a cham­pi­onship.

Maybe it was the 14 days of quar­an­tine upon ar­rival but when he emerged, Den­ver hockey writer Adrian Dater im­me­di­ately went to Game 1 of the Black­hawks-Oil­ers se­ries and was in­spired to tweet the following:

“Re­gret­ting my Oil­ers pick over Chicago. Con­nor McDavid is a bril­liant talent but a per­son­al­ity-de­fi­cient guy. I think his bland­ness rubs off too much on his team­mates. Happy to hear opin­ions to the con­trary but fact is he doesn’t in­spire oth­ers.”

McDavid’s re­sponses came at 0:19 and 4:05 of the first pe­riod to give the Oil­ers a 2-0 lead and again at 17:10 of the second after the Black­hawks tied it up 3-3.

McDavid gave the Oil­ers the goals while the team fought to find the com­po­nents in terms of win­ning their share of the bat­tles and lit­tle races to the puck that they hadn’t man­aged to win in their no-show 6-4 loss in the se­ries opener Satur­day.

Most of them suc­ceeded.

After say­ing the Oil­ers were “em­bar­rassed” by their ef­fort in Game 1, Tyler En­nis was in­vited to the zoom media in­ter­view room to sit be­side McDavid after Mon­day’s game.

“Con­nor led the way, es­pe­cially early. He set the tone for us and gave us the spark, which was ex­actly what we needed, and ev­ery­body fol­lowed,” En­nis said.

Coach Dave Tip­pett mar­velled at how McDavid grabbed the game by the throat.

“Those first two goals were very strong goals that sent a very strong mes­sage to our team that he’s here to play, but I liked the way our whole team re­sponded,” Tip­pett said.

It was in­ter­est­ing that goal­tender Mikko Kosk­i­nen was not one of the four play­ers in­vited to the post-game media avail­abil­ity. And there wasn’t one ques­tion about his performanc­e di­rected at his team­mates or his coach.

Kosk­i­nen kept the Oil­ers level or leading in the game from start to fin­ish. He didn’t give up that ridicu­lously soft goal early that seems to take the air out of this team.

It most certainly did when Mike Smith turned the puck over and al­lowed an early goal to be scored off his back from be­hind the net in Game 1.

Kosk­i­nen played a steady, solid game as he stopped 23 of 26 shots after stop­ping 18 of 19 shots in re­lief of Smith in Game 1.

To beat the Black­hawks in this se­ries, steady goaltendin­g be­hind a hun­gry hockey team will­ing to en­gage in all those lit­tle bat­tles will be key.

JEFF VINNICK/GETTY IM­AGES

Ed­mon­ton’s Con­nor McDavid had his first NHL play­off hat trick against the Chicago Black­hawks on Mon­day at Rogers Place. The Oil­ers won the game 6-3 and tied the best-of-five se­ries 1-1.

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