PITTSBURGH (AP)Five strides. That’s all it took for Connor McDavid to race by two Pittsburgh Penguins and deliver a magnificent goal in what is becoming another masterpiece of a season for the Edmonton star.
A fourth scoring title is in the offing for McDavid. Perhaps a deep playoff run for the surging Oilers too. The postseason is far murkier for the player McDavid replaced as the face of the NHL.
Sidney Crosby and the Penguins are reeling, the latest setback a 5-1 loss to McDavid and Edmonton on Tuesday that offered a portrait of two teams heading in opposite directions.
McDavid overwhelmed Pittsburgh with his speed and the kind of dazzling playmaking that used to be almost exclusively Crosby’s domain. The 22nd four-point night of McDavid’s career ended with apretty shot from a tight angle 9:13 into the third period.
With Edmonton on the power play, McDavid took a pass from Leon Draisaitl high in the slot, darted past Evan Rodrigues, then slipped by 6-foot-3 Jeff Carter before rifling a shot while gliding on one skate. His 44th goal of the season gave the Oilers a three-goal lead and left the 25-year-old smiling as he skated toward the giddy Edmonton bench.
”Best player in the world, right?” Oilers forward Zach Hyman said. ”So that’s what you expect and that’s what you get.”
Evander Kane scored his sixth goal in his last four games for Edmonton. Hyman, Evan Bouchard and Zack Kassian also scored as the Oilers improved to 17-4-2 in their last 23 games. Mike Smith stopped 33 shots to win his ninth straight start.
The victory assured Edmonton of home-ice advantage in the first round when the chase for the Stanley Cup begins in earnest next week. Not bad for a team that was floundering around the All-Star break. Not so much anymore with McDavid and Draisaitl in full flight and Kane on a tear.
”You want to be playing well going into the playoffs,” Hyman said. ”You don’t want to have a little lull because it’s hard to get that back, it’s hard to get to form.”
The Penguins would know. Pittsburgh is 6-9-2 in its last 17 games after falling at home to Edmonton in regulation for the first time since 2006. Crosby had five shots on goal but didn’t record a point as Pittsburgh spent most of the night chasing after McDavid.
”They’re one of the fastest teams in the league,” Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson said. ”We’re fast too. They just got the better of us in the speed department too. We’ve got to stay closer to them and not let them ramp up that speed.”
Carter scored his 19th goal for Pittsburgh and Casey DeSmith finished with 37 saves for the Penguins, who played their straight game without injured All-Star goalie Tristan Jarry. The issue isn’t DeSmith’s play – he had a 52-save shutout against Boston last week – but what’s going on in front of him.
The Penguins have allowed at least 40 shots in three of their last four games and let the Oilers get off 16 of the game’s first 24 shots, several on breakaways and odd-man rushes. DeSmith stopped McDavid and Kane early, but Bouchard’s wrist shot from near the top of the right faceoff circle zipped by the goaltender’s glove 12:47 into the game to put Edmonton in front.
Carter evened the game 5:23 into the period when Mike Matheson’s blast from the point went wide of the net and right to Carter’s stick at the doorstep.
Twenty-five seconds later, the Oilers finished off a pretty rush that ended with a drop pass from McDavid to Kailer Yamamoto, who then slipped the puck cross-ice to Kane. Kane beat DeSmith for his 22nd goal in just 41 games played this season.
Hyman jammed in a shot from in front on the power play 4:08 into the third to make it 3-1 and McDavid pushed his point total to an NHL-leading and career-best 122 with his brilliant goal.
”It’s incredible,” Bouchard said of McDavid. ”You wouldn’t think in this age that somebody would get that many points, but kind of doesn’t surprise me at all. Watching him all year, you really see the kind of player he is.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh F Jason Zucker left in the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. … The Oilers were 2 for 4 on the power play. The Penguins were 0 for 4. … Two Edmonton goals were overturned on review after successful Pittsburgh challenges for offsides.
Oilers: Have two more games at home to end the regular season, starting on Thursday against San Jose.
Penguins: Finish up the regular season at home on Friday night against Columbus.
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