EDMONTON — They are, at times, a two-man team, these Edmonton Oilers.
Or, at least, a two-man offence, as there was plenty of defending to be done and saves to be made against the feisty Senators, in a 4-2 win at Ottawa that saw each of the Oilers superstars pile up four points.
Credit the Senators — after a rough first period Ottawa played the Oilers to a standstill. But, the two-headed monster that has now trampled the Senators for 41 points in eight consecutive Edmonton victories this season was simply, in the end, too much for Ottawa.
“Maybe we deserved a better result. That’s how it goes sometimes,” guessed trusty Sens centre Josh Norris. “Their two big guys came to play.”
“Should we have got a point? I don’t know,” echoed Senators head coach D.J. Smith. “I would have liked to have held them to two, but we got hemmed in our zone, couldn’t get our (preferred) guys out, and it ends up in our net.”
The game-winner he was talking about came with McDavid on a 1:55-long shift, as the Oilers’ top line pinned Ottawa in their own zone for more than a minute. Passing, passing, passing — until McDavid grabbed it near the half wall, drove to the net and zipped it into the roof.
It was the third goal in a 4-2 win, and though it was a true tour de force it was not the prettiest goal of the evening. That belonged to the big German, who one-timed home a McDavid pass with both feet south of the goal line, maybe 18 feet to the side of the net.
The angle was impossible, the goal impeccable.
“Most guys wouldn’t even attempt that shot, so you’re not going to see it very often,” Tippett said. “He has that confidence. Not only can he try it, he’s successful at it.”
“That’s a shot that only a few guys in the world can make, and he’s one of them,” said McDavid. “He’s deadly from a lot of areas on the ice, and that’s one of them.”
In Draisaitl, McDavid has the level of talent required to get the most out of himself. And vice versa.
Head coach Dave Tippett plays them on the same line against Ottawa, for one reason: it works.
One night No. 97 torches the Senators, the next it’s No. 29. On Wednesday it was both.
“There are some great goal scorers around the league, and he’s right at the top two,” McDavid said of his teammate. “Ovechkin and him, I think, are two of the most deadly shooters we have around the league.”
There is another side to the success of the NHL’s top two scorers, of course. When they don’t produce, it is fair to wonder if these Oilers are good enough?
McDavid and Draisaitl go pointless in that three-game set against Toronto, and Edmonton loses all three. Neither has a goal against the Montreal Canadiens yet this season, and the Habs hold a 4-1 edge over Edmonton in the season series.
Is there enough top-six talent on this Oilers team to play them apart come playoff time? Or will Tippett relent, and have all his eggs in one basket?
Kyle Turris was supposed to help with that offensive support this season, but he has been a flop with just five points all season. Zack Kassian has gone undercover as well, ghosting again on Wednesday, though his coach said his no-points, no-shots, two-hit performance was actually an upgrade on what Kassian has been bringing to the table of late.
“He was not bad tonight,” said Tippett. “We played him on left wing tonight, and we’re going to try some different things. We’ve been talking to him. His game was better tonight than it was the other night in Montreal.”
With one game left in the season series — Thursday at 5:00 p.m. MT – Draisaitl and McDavid both have found some rare air, becoming the first players with 20 points in a season versus a single opponent since Wayne Gretzky in 1986-87 vs both the Los Angeles Kings Vancouver Canucks.
The similarity is, the Oilers played eight games against both L.A. and Vancouver that season.
The difference? Gretzky had a lot more help.