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McDavid frustrated by latest loss to Penguins

Center says Oilers have 'to be better' finishing scoring chances

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

PITTSBURGH -- Connor McDavid reached for the puck with his right hand on his stick, cradled it with two hands for a split second and shot from the left dot. The puck hit the outstretched stick of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, ramped past the glove of Penguins goaltender Matt Murray and plunked into the far side of the net.

Now we were talking. The Edmonton Oilers had tied the game 1-1 with 2:53 to go in the third period at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday. When overtime began, out came McDavid and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. Here was the much-hyped matchup: the reigning scoring champion and MVP vs. the reigning goal-scoring champ and MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Seconds into OT, McDavid fed teammate Leon Draisaitl on a 3-on-1 rush. Save, Murray. Crosby took a stretch pass from teammate Jake Guentzel at the Edmonton blue line. McDavid chased. Crosby cut to the net, cradling the puck on his backhand with his right hand on his stick, holding off McDavid with his left hand. He shoveled a one-handed shot. Save, Cam Talbot.

Whistle. Whew.

 

[RELATED: Kessel, Penguins defeat Oilers in overtime]

 

But here's how it ended: Penguins forward Phil Kessel took a pass from teammate Evgeni Malkin on a 2-on-1 rush, stickhandled and scored at the 42-second mark. Pittsburgh won 2-1.

And so here are the results after three McDavid-Crosby NHL games: McDavid has five points (two goals, three assists), Crosby zero. But the Penguins have earned six points (3-0-0) in the standings, the Oilers two (0-1-2).

The moral of the story is obvious: By all means enjoy individual matchups, especially with players like McDavid and Crosby, but remember that this is a team game with an element of luck. So much is beyond an individual's control.

McDavid could have had more points Tuesday.

In the first period, McDavid threaded a pass from right to left across the goal mouth, between the legs of Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz. The puck landed smack on the tape of Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto at the left side of the net while Murray was out of position. It was a tough angle, but Yamamoto had a yawning cage and time. He missed.

Video: EDM@PIT: McDavid goes top shelf to even game

In the second, McDavid sent the puck from the right circle toward the net on the power play. The puck ricocheted off the blade of Oilers forward Milan Lucic in front to the left to teammate Mark Letestu, who dropped to one knee and got everything on a one-timer as Murray lunged across. Somehow, Murray got the paddle of his stick on the puck.

"I'm going to make that same shot 100 times," Letestu said. "You've got to, sometimes, give the goalie credit for the desperation there. He comes up with a big save."

Lucic dug out the puck and shot with two Penguins on top of Murray, flat on his belly in the crease. The rebound came to McDavid, but he had to take a split second to pull it from his forehand to his backhand to get off a shot. Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin blocked it.

"We're getting these chances in front of the net that should be automatic and we're not scoring on them, myself included," McDavid said. "So we've got to be better in that area."

The Penguins are 6-3-1. The Oilers are 2-5-1. In the short term, the Oilers have to find ways to generate more scoring. They have allowed five goals over their past three games, all on the road, including two overtime periods, but have scored four and gone 1-1-1.

Video: EDM@PIT: Murray denies McDavid's backhand in front

One concern is confidence. But a bigger one is speed, even though they have McDavid.

"We haven't been fast," McDavid said. "Last year we were a fast team, and that's how we beat teams, moving pucks up quick, forwards getting on their [defensemen], leading on the rush. We were real good on the rush. This year it just hasn't been that way."

Oilers coach Todd McLellan said: "We're not getting Usain Bolt fast in the next five days, six days. But we get can quicker by moving pucks cleaner, we can work into position quicker, we can release shots quicker, we can think quicker and anticipate better, and that'll make us a half-step faster. And we need that. We need to become a quicker team."

In the long term, the Oilers have to surround McDavid the way the Penguins have surrounded Crosby. Each missed the playoffs as a rookie. Each made the playoffs in his second season, and McDavid won a round while Crosby didn't. But can McDavid make the Stanley Cup Final in his third season the way Crosby did? Can he win the Cup in his fourth season the way Crosby did? Will he have a chance to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe multiple times the way Crosby has?

Well, is Draisaitl as good as Malkin? Can he be? Do the Oilers have players like Sergei Gonchar, Marian Hossa and Bill Guerin? Or Kessel, Kris Letang and so on? Can they find them?

Even the best need help.

Video: Crosby, McDavid lock horns for third time

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