There’s 10 seconds left in the third period and there’s only one guy in the whole building the Florida Panthers have to really watch, Connor McDavid, and somehow they don’t see No. 97 standing all by himself.
So, McDavid takes sidekick Leon Draisaitl’s feed with goalie Cam Talbot pulled for an extra attacker and calmly slides it past James Reimer for his 26th goal to get the Edmonton Oilers to OT and McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the shootout to put the finishing touches on a 4-3 victory.
Talbot stopped Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov hit the post.
It was one of those winning ugly nights for the Oilers, who were so far from clicking on all cylinders for 59 minutes they barely got their wheels out of the garage. They didn’t have their A or B game, but McDavid had two goals and an assist on Darnell Nurse’s goal to give him 66 points on their 122 team total goals.
Nurse also set up McDavid for a two-point night, playing half the game.
Until McDavid’s heroics, Henrik Borgstrom, who lived with ex-Oiler Todd McLellan’s son Tyson when they were playing at Denver University for two years, looked like he might have the winner when his backhand into the slot and the puck bounced off defenceman Adam Larsson and by Talbot.
Frank Vatrano and Denis Malgin had the other Florida goals.
Neither team had anywhere near their A or B game, but the Oilers lost their ninth game in the last 11 going back to Dec. 16 when they handled Philadelphia here 4-1. That was their sixth straight loss at Rogers Place.
“This is a real opportunity for us (six home games in the next seven) and we have to do something with it. We have to make hay here,” said Oiler coach Ken Hitchcock.
“We’ve got six teams for those two wild card spots.”
Call for a Nurse
Nurse was the Oilers’ most active player with five shots in the first two periods, playing almost half of it, 19:37. He played over 11 minutes in the second frame. He scored on his first shot, whistling one through the feet of Reimer midway through the opening period and set up McDavid. His 22 points are four off last year’s total in 82 games.
Where were the forwards?
Through 40 minutes, only five Oiler forwards — McDavid, Milan Lucic, Nugent-Hopkins, Kyle Brodziak and Jesse Puljujarvi — had shots on Reimer. It took them 35 minutes to reach 10 shots for the entire Oiler team. But when you win, you forget that.
About that power play
The Oilers had a 5-on-3 for 57 seconds late in the middle period and never came close to a shot on Reimer, then Nurse took his fifth shot of the night from 50 feet through traffic with 30 seconds left in the frame, 5-on-5 and the rebound dropped right onto McDavid’s stick for the 2-2 goal. Go figure.
Quick scouting report
So how would Florida coach Bob Boughner have handled McDavid when he played in the NHL? “You were a very good defencemen, so what do you think?” a reporter asked Boughner. “I wouldn’t say I was very good. I probably wouldn’t have been on the ice when Connor was out,” laughed the hard-nosed Boughner, who played 630 NHL games in Calgary, Buffalo, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Colorado. Boughner also coached Taylor Hall in junior in Windsor.
“Taylor is very fast but Connor is another kind of fast.”
Continuing the audition
Oilers call-up winger Kailer Yamamoto was on the ice for morning skate Thursday, testing out his hand which was either slashed or jammed in a play against San Jose here Dec. 29. He was put on injured reserve during the Oilers’ four-game road trip to Arizona and California to get defenceman Kris Russell back on the playing roster. “Yamo will take part in full practice Friday and hopefully will be a player for us Saturday,” said Hitchcock.
Wait your turn
Brandon Manning, acquired from Chicago in the deal for Drake Caggiula, was a healthy defence scratch for a third straight game. “He’s calmed down from trying to do way, way too much. He’s in the group of seven (healthy) defencemen and we’ll continue to see where that goes,” said Hitchcock. “Same for Matt Benning. It’s been an emotional time for him (his grandpa Elmer died) and getting Matt back in (Florida) will be good for him and for us.”
This ’n that: Sportsnet hi-def had problems with their feed on Shaw, but it was still there on standard def on channel 119 on Shaw … Puljujarvi blew a tire early in the third and crashed into the side boards, taking awhile to shake off the cobwebs … There were only 36 total face-offs through 40 minutes and Barkov had taken exactly half of them … Mike Hoffman’s power play ripper hit Talbot smack-dab in the mask midway through the second and the strap came loose as Talbot ripped it off to show the refs … Former Florida defenceman Alex Petrovic, who would have loved to play his old club Thursday, is undergoing “concussion protocol” according to Hitchcock after Timo Meier smacked him into the boards in San Jose. Oilers medical people are still monitoring him but Hitchcock says he’s feeling much better.