Connor McDavid puts NHL on notice with goal-scoring frenzy

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Connor McDavid is must-see entertainment and not just for hockey fans.

The best player in the world is having such an off-the-charts year that his peers can’t help but watch his highlights. The Edmonton Oilers captain has already set career highs with 55 goals and 127 points, and there are still 15 games left in the regular season.

“He’s from a different planet,” Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said.

McDavid’s latest act has been as a goal-scorer after spending his first seven NHL seasons as more of a playmaker. He’s shooting first, asking questions later and making the entire league take notice.

“He’s dominating,” Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “He just continues to get better. And as any player, that’s what you want. But when it’s a guy like that, it’s scary.”

Trying to defend McDavid is a scary proposition for opponents, and it has been since he broke into the league in 2015 with his dazzling stick work and blinding speed. He has already won the Hart Trophy as MVP twice and four times took home the Art Ross Trophy for the most points in a season.

McDavid is authoring another MVP-worthy season this time while running away with the goal-scoring title. Much like he focused on improving in the faceoff circle and rounding out his two-way game in previous years, he made a concerted effort to score more himself and surpassed the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career.

“I’ve never been an elite goal-scorer,” McDavid said. “I’ve kind of always been a pass-first guy. I kind of always said that I take the best available play, but this year I just feel like I’ve been put in some good spots, obviously playing with some good players, and the puck’s going in. I think that’s ultimately just the difference.”

The difference between McDavid and the next-closest scorer, teammate Leon Draisaitl, is 29 points. Boston’s David Pastrnak ranks second in the league in goals and he’s still nine back of McDavid.

After six multigoal games in his last 10, McDavid is on pace for the highest single-season total since the salary cap era began in 2005, surpassing the 65 Ovechkin sored in 2007-08. Ovechkin, who trails only Wayne Gretzky on the career goals list and is 79 away from breaking the record, marvels at what McDavid is doing.

“How he play the game, how he control the puck, how he control the speed, he’s fun to watch,” Ovechkin said. “It’s great that he’s able to show not only one year, but he’s consistently doing that over and over.”

Crosby, himself a two-time MVP and three-time Stanley Cup winner, is impressed by McDavid’s eagerness to evolve. Dallas Stars coach Peter DeBoer uses McDavid as an example for young players of how to isolate a weakness and turn into a strength.

“I think that’s a lesson for everybody that this guy just wasn’t touched by the hand of God with talent,” DeBoer said. “He’s worked at it and at his game, at getting better.”

Dylan Strome witnessed McDavid honing aspects of his game when they were junior teammates in Erie, Pennsylvania.

“He’s finding new ways to become more creative,” Strome said. “Sometimes you wonder what more can he do?”

Strome, now playing with Ovechkin in Washington, sees McDavid scoring from different angles, shooting from further away from the net and attempting more one-timers. Some of that came from watching Crosby, reigning MVP Auston Matthews and others, and studying how they shoot the puck.

“So many guys go about it so many different ways,” McDavid said. “It’s always a chance to learn, watching other guys.”

McDavid is constantly learning and also inspiring some of the NHL’s best. Nathan MacKinnon, who was one of the best players on Colorado’s Stanley Cup run last year, said McDavid’s season makes him want to get better.

“It makes you want to strive for something,” MacKinnon said. “I know I won’t be as good as him no matter how hard I work, but I appreciate what he’s doing and how he does it.”

McDavid envies MacKinnon, Crosby and Ovechkin for what they’ve done that he has not: won the Cup. Now 26 with a trip to the Western Conference final last season his deepest run so far, he said his focus has always been about the team and called a winning a championship “the ultimate goal – and that’s what we’re building towards.”

Nothing McDavid does in the regular season guarantees playoff success, though carrying the Oilers like MacKinnon did with the Avalanche at times last spring could be his next trick. Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy sees evidence of that in McDavid’s production now.

“Just a dominant guy that wants to get his name on the Cup,” Cassidy said. “He’s just focused on, even though it’s regular season, driving that team, pulling that team, putting them on his back.”

On pace for the most points in a season since Mario Lemieux put up 161 in 1995-96, McDavid said he hasn’t put much thought into what his scoring total might be. Other players certainly are.

“Every time he’s on the ice he could have one or two goals,” said Florida’s Sam Reinhart, a teammate of McDavid’s on the 2015 championship Canada world junior team.

Of course, his name etched on a few more individual trophies won’t fill the void for McDavid in his quest for the Cup. He’s making Edmonton games appointment viewing and would love for that to continue well into June.

“I think everyone’s tuning in to the Oilers games most nights because of how special of a player he is,” Strome said. “Obviously, the next step is winning. He’s doing everything in his power to do that.”

Oilers escape McDavid scare, win 3-2 to snap Bruins’ streak

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BOSTON – The Boston Bruins shut down NHL scoring leader Connor McDavid. They kept Leon Draisaitl off the scoresheet, too. It still wasn’t enough to beat the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.

The Oilers escaped a scare when McDavid limped off the ice late in their 3-2 win over the Bruins – minutes after Darnell Nurse scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:49 remaining.

McDavid returned, but was held without a point for just the seventh time all season. It was the first time since New Year’s Eve, when McDavid was scoreless and Draisaitl didn’t play, that neither registered a point.

“I can’t believe they didn’t get a point. I mean, they should get a point every night, right?” said goalie Stuart Skinner, who made 26 saves to snap Boston’s 10-game winning streak and deprive the Bruins of a chance to become the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth this season.

“Our top dogs here, I think they did a unbelievable job defensively,” Skinner said. “They’ve been doing such a good job in our end lately and, obviously they’re still a massive threat offensively.”

McDavid struggled to the bench after a knee-on-knee collision with teammate Derek Ryan. But the two-time league MVP returned to help the Oilers hold on when Boston pulled goalie Jeremy Swayman for an extra skater in the final minutes.

Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said he didn’t see the collision, but was glad McDavid was able to return.

“My mind was on the play,” he said. “But he felt good enough to finish the game, so I felt good about that.”

Boston led 2-0 after one, but Evan Bouchard scored in the second and Ryan McLeod tied it six minutes into the third. Nurse scored the game-winner on a wrist shot past a screened Swayman to give the Oilers their fourth win in five tries.

“I just said to myself, ‘I’ve got to lock it down for the next 40 (minutes). And if I do that, it will at least give the guys a chance to win,’” Skinner said. “If I’m going to be honest, I was very excited after the game. … This one, this one feels really good.”

Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak scored, and Swayman stopped 19 shots for the Bruins (49-9-5), who could have set an NHL record as the fastest-ever to 50 wins.

McDavid leads the NHL with 54 goals – nine more than Pastrnak, who is second – as well as 70 assists and 124 points. Draisaitl is fifth in the league with 41 goals and second with 96 points.

It was the first time all season the Oilers won a game without either of them recording a point.

“It felt like a playoff game,” Woodcroft said. “In playoff games sometimes there’s a ‘saw-off’ between the best players on both teams and other people have to find ways to to contribute. If you look up and down our roster, we have numerous people that can find the back of the net and that’s what you need as you come down the stretch here.”


Oilers: Visit Toronto on Saturday.

Bruins: Host Detroit on Saturday.

McDavid scores two in Oilers’ 3-2 win over Sabres

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BUFFALO, N.Y. – Edmonton Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft likes to compare watching Connor McDavid play to living at the foot of Mount Everest, and being almost numbed by taking in the spectacular scene on a daily basis.

That view turned breathtaking for Woodcroft and the Oilers on Monday night, in witnessing McDavid score twice to push his NHL-leading goal total to 54, and set a career high with 124 points in a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

“The finish was all-world,” Woodcroft said of McDavid scoring the go-ahead goal on the fly by beating Craig Anderson through the legs 3:23 into the third period, and less than two minutes after the Sabres tied the game at 2.

“I saw someone that was competitive right from the puck right from the puck drop,” he added. “Connor’s at a different evolutionary stage in his game right now, and I think everyone saw that here tonight.”

McDavid continued making a case to win his third Hart MVP Trophy in eight seasons with his 12th multi-goal game of the year. His 124 points in 65 games are one more than the career-best he set in 80 games last year, and McDavid extended his points streak to 11 games, in which the Oilers’ captain has 12 goals and 15 assists.

“Who’s more likely to make a big play than him?” asked teammate Zach Hyman in wonder. “He’s the best player in the world, and he’s pushing his own boundaries. He’s been driving the bus for a long time and continues to get better.”

Derek Ryan also scored and Stuart Skinner stopped 37 shots for the Oilers, who improved to 5-4-3 in their past 12, and bounced back from a 7-5 loss at Winnipeg on Saturday.

Jeff Skinner and Dylan Cozens scored for the Sabres, and Anderson stopped 34 shots.

In dropping to 6-4 in its past 10, Buffalo continued its season-long struggles at home in losing five of its past seven.

Buffalo (32-26-4), in the midst of an NHL-worst 11-season playoff drought, failed to gain ground in a tight Eastern Conference race. The day began with four points separating the seventh-place New York Islanders, and ninth-place Buffalo, which was locked in a four-way tie with teams with 68 points.

Earlier in the day, Sabres coach Don Granato, declined to say whether he considered McDavid to be a step above everyone else in the league out of deference to his young stars. Afterward, Granato had no choice but to praise the Oilers’ captain, who scored twice on three shots on net.

“He’s got 50-plus for a reason, he doesn’t need many (shots),” Granato said. “He’s done that to lots of teams and goaltenders, and he was ready for his opportunities. That’s what makes him special.”

The Oilers (35-22-8) moved into a tie with Seattle for third in the Pacific Division.

After opening the scoring in the first period, McDavid scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, shortly after Cozens tied the game.

Warren Foegele drove up the left wing to gain the Sabres zone and then spun to hit McDavid in stride cutting up the middle. McDavid veered to his left to get by defender Jacob Bryson, and snapped a shot in though Anderson’s legs.

It was McDavid’s ninth game-winning goal of the season, after he began the day in a four-way tie for second and one behind teammate Leon Draisaitl.

INJURIES Oilers LW Evander Kane, who is traveling with the team, missed his ninth game with a rib injury. … The Sabres were without C Tyson Jost and Ds Mattias Samuelsson and Riley Stillman (head), who are listed day to day.


Oilers: At the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.

Sabres: At the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.

Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner signs 3-year extension

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EDMONTON, Alberta — The Edmonton Oilers signed goaltender Stuart Skinner to a three-year, $7.8 million contract extension on Monday.

The 24-year-old from Edmonton has a 9-8-1 record, a 2.83 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage for the Oilers this season.

He was drafted by Edmonton in the third round (78th) of the 2017 entry draft. Skinner has appeared in 33 NHL games with a career 2.82 goal-against average and a .912 save percentage.

Devils top Oilers, tie franchise mark with 13th straight win

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NEWARK, N.J. – The young New Jersey Devils are making a name for themselves – in the team’s record book.

Nico Hischier had three assists and the no-name Devils beat the Connor McDavid-led Edmonton Oilers 5-2 Monday night to match a franchise mark with their 13th consecutive win.

“I guess we’re up there with the history book,” Hischier said. “Nobody is going to take that from us now and it feels good. It proves that we’re a good team, that we can win hockey games, that we don’t have to hide anymore.”

Jesper Bratt, Dawson Mercer, Damon Severson, Tomas Tatar and Yegor Sharangovich scored for the Devils, who haven’t lost since Oct. 24 against Washington. Vitek Vanecek made 27 saves for New Jersey.

“It’s awesome winning,” said Bratt, who leads the team with 24 points. “So is everything around the rink and being with the guys and playing these important games. That means a lot, and winning is the best thing possible in hockey.”

The Devils still have three quarters of the season to go, but they are well on the road to making the playoffs for the first time since the 2017-18 season.

“We’ve had a great run. We know that we’re kind of the hunted now,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We know that we’re going to expect probably the best every team can bring because we’re getting recognition. So that part we have to deal with. But 19 games in you can’t say, `We sent a message to the league.”‘

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the Oilers, beaten twice by New Jersey during its run. Stuart Skinner made 23 saves, but had the puck taken off his stick by Hischier early in the second period to set up the go-ahead goal by Mercer into a wide-open net.

“Obviously a tough game. Tough loss,” Skinner said. “They’re obviously a great team. They’re obviously hot right now as well. They’ve got some great players that make some great plays and it was just tough to lose, especially two in a row to these guys. But all we can do is learn from our mistakes and move on.”

Severson stretched the margin to 3-1 on a counterattack minutes later.

Edmonton made a push early in the third. Nugent-Hopkins cut it to 3-2 at 4:52 and had a close-in chance to tie it, only to be stopped by Vanecek, who improved to 9-1.

Tatar gave the Devils breathing room about a minute later, gloving down the rebound of Mercer’s shot and beating Skinner. Sharangovich added an insurance goal with 5:15 to go.

Jack Hughes had two assists for the Devils.


Not only did Skinner hand the Devils the go-ahead goal, backup netminder Jack Campbell also had a bad night.

Sitting on the end of the bench late in the second period, Campbell was cut when he was hit in the face by a puck that seemed to be deflected by Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Campbell immediately left the bench and did not return for the third period.

“I went and saw him after the second period, and he was laughing and smiling. So that’s the kind of guy he is,” Skinner said. “But no, he had a pretty bloody nose and obviously it’s hard to see that happen, especially to him. I think he’s fine.”


Oilers: Continue their swing through the New York metropolitan area when they visit the Islanders on Wednesday. Edmonton finishes in New York City on Saturday against the Rangers.

Devils: Host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.