McDavid provides 'Holy Cow!' moment, but Oilers win in Chicago total team effort
'We're not anywhere close to cruise control, we’ve got a lot of work to do,' coach Todd McLellan says
Hard as it is, let's resist the impulse to open with that Holy Cow! moment.
Instead, we'll concentrate for a moment on the bigger picture, one that appears vaguely familiar.
For now, it seems we can call off the search party.
- Holy Cow! McDavid spins his magic
- 'Did you see that?' Breaking down Connor McDavid's surreal spinarama
Because the Edmonton Oilers team that finished with 103 points last spring and battled through two playoff rounds has been located at last, alive and well and for once living up to its potential at the United Centre in Chicago.
On Thursday night, with a 2-1 overtime win against the Blackhawks, the Oilers team everyone has been searching for under the couch cushions finally showed up and put together its best performance of the season.
You can begin with Cam Talbot. After struggling in his recent starts, the Oilers goalie silenced his critics with a boatload of big saves. He stopped everything he saw and almost everything he didn't. The only puck that managed to sneak past him came on a backhand shot from behind the net.
Patrick Kane's goal at the 7:33 mark of the first period could have set the stage for another night of the living dead for a visiting team that vamoosed out of Edmonton lugging a four-game losing streak along with the suitcases.
Talbot 'gave us a chance,' says McLellan
Despite the early setback, Talbot and the guys in front of him stayed focused and kept working.
"He could have cracked after giving up the first one, obviously, on the first shot, one he'd probably like to have back," coach Todd McLellan said after the game. "But after that, he made some tremendous saves. He really gave us a chance. I thought he looked more like he did most of last year."
McLellan's team forechecked and backchecked with tenacity, and time and again cleared Blackhawks from in front of their net.
The defence, questioned by fans and critics since the season opened, came up with most of the right answers. All three pairs were solid.
The Oilers outshot the home team 42-31. They took most of the penalties, too, but killed off all five, including almost a full minute when they were two men short.
"I thought we played well on both sides of the puck," McLellan said.
That McDavid moment
And yes, we can't forget that Holy Cow! moment, from the guy who delivers more of them than anyone else in the game.
Connor McDavid's latest contribution to the highlight reel came late in the first period, when he carried the puck into the offensive zone. When he couldn't worm his way between Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, McDavid invented something new.
He turned backwards, shielded the puck with his body, and coasted in reverse to the edge of the goal crease. With two of the league's best defenders mesmerized, he spun and fed a perfect, behind-the-back pass to Patrick Maroon, who snapped it home to tie the score.
In honour of the guy who made that pass, the fastest skater in the NHL, we'll zip through the rest of the action.
Talbot made one save after another.
Kris Russell and his much-criticized defence mates blocked shot after shot.
Milan Lucic and Zack Kassian slammed opponents into the boards.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins won important faceoffs at key moments.
Rookie Kailer Yamamoto ended up with eight shots on goal, recorded his fourth assist of the year and made his strongest argument yet that he should stay in the NHL and remain on the top line.
"I think I'm just getting more comfortable," the kid said later. "I'm starting to get used to the pace a lot more."
The clock eventually ticked down to zeroes and regulation time ended with a 1-1 tie.
One-timer ends overtime
McDavid wasn't done being McDavid. Late in overtime he stole the puck in the Hawks' zone and broke for the net. Kane was forced to take a hooking penalty.
With the Oilers on a four-on-three power play, Nugent-Hopkins won two vital faceoffs in the offensive zone. Oscar Klefbom made a key pinch to hold the puck in at the blue line. The Oilers set up and passed the puck around the perimeter, back and forth and back.
Until Mark Letestu decided someone had better shoot, and fired a perfect one-timer past Hawks goalie Anton Forsberg to win the game and snap the losing streak.
McLellan summed it up this way: "We're happy with the win, we're happy with the way we played. But we're not anywhere close to cruise control. We've got a lot of work to do."
The Oilers, now 2-4 with a bunch of teams above them in the standings, continue the work in Philadelphia on Saturday, then head to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.