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It was like Jerry Lee Lewis pouring gas out of a Coke bottle onto his piano while singing ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and saying, “Follow that act” to Chuck Berry as he left the stage at a Rock ‘N Roll era show.
Except ‘Jerry Lee’ McDavid was actually following the act of ‘Chuck’ Matthews when he set the piano on fire Saturday night at Rogers Place.
It was a Hockey Night In Canada doubleheader featuring Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid and it turned out to be a promo for next Saturday at Rogers Place when the two share the same stage in the first of three consecutive games between the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs in Edmonton.
It was a night when media members were hoping for a good quote from McDavid to the effect that when he saw Matthews performance in the first game leading the Leafs to a 5-3 win in Montreal he knew he needed to respond with a “Whatever he can do, I can do better!” response.
Nope. No money quote.
All the fans were left with with was Kelly Hrudey recalling on the HNIC telecast that when he was with the Los Angeles Kings and Wayne Gretzky saw that Mario Lemieux have a big night in an the Eastern time zone game that No. 99’s eyes would light up that told him to expect a response.
Of course there are a lot of people of a certain age (Gretzky turned 60 in January) who will remember that one of No. 99’s greatest traits was his sense of stage.
But McDavid, who spent time this off-season training with Matthews in Arizona, wouldn’t go there. Nor would a teammate. Nor would his coach.
Matthews put his name on the first game on HNIC when he scored two goals and added two assists in the Maple Leafs win.
McDavid called Matthews four-points and responded with with a five-point night of his own.
No. 97 beat Matthews pair of goals with not only a hat-trick but a natural hat-trick. McDavid had two primary assists and scored on each of his three shots on goal.
(And is there a sadder sight in sports right now than a player getting a natural hat-track at home and not one hat is thrown on the ice?)
The game was only half over and when McDavid effectively took a seat. The captain didn’t play on the power play after he’d personally assured the game would be a blow out. When the score was 7-1, Oilers coach Dave Tippett reduced his ice time dramatically.
So McDavid has 37 points and Matthews with 29. And voters in Toronto may want to hold off for at least another 10 days to fill in their Hart Trophy ballots.
In Edmonton, it’s hard to focus on a “Big Team Win” storyline when McDavid has a light-up-the-night game like he did including a classic didn’t-even-look-at-the-net goal that goes directly into the highlight reel vault for the ages.
But make no mistake. While most fans will be talking about McDavid, it absolutely a giant win for his hockey team.
The NHL standings don’t always present an accurate picture. But coming out of Saturday’s action there was no denying what had happened as Edmonton swept both ends of the home-and-home, back-to-back, two-game series against the Calgary Flames.
The Oilers ninth win in the last 11 games resulted in significant separation in the Canadian Division standings.
While Toronto (30 points, +11, .789) have put together a comfortable lead in first place, Edmonton (24 points, +4, .600), Winnipeg (21 points, +4, .618) and Montreal (20 points, +4, .625) are either second, third or fourth, depending on how you read a set of NHL standings.
Regardless, there’s separation.
Calgary (17 points, -1, .472) and Vancouver (17 points, -4 and .405) are now both in need of something similar to Edmonton’s 9-2 run after a 3-6 start to put themselves back in playoff contention with a 12-8 record after 20 of the 56 games.
And McDavid wasn’t the Oilers only story. They received a solid 43-save performance from Mikko Koskinen to make-up for his six-goal meltdown in the first game of the 10 scheduled against the Flames two weeks. For this night, at least, one must admit, actually looked a legitimate NHL goaltender. It’ll take more than one game for this columnist to declare him that, however.
And Darnell Nurse played back-to-back 30-minute plus games on defence. Ex-Leaf Tyson Barrie is back to looking like the talent he was when he was with the Colorado Avalanche. Jesse Puljujarvi is looking like a pro. And there are several contributing depth players. The Oilers won two games of those last 11 when neither McDavid nor Leon Draisaitl scored.
Meanwhile in Calgary and Vancouver the sky is falling.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021