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McDavid provides Oilers comfort with highlight-reel goal against Canucks

Center's game-winner shows knee injury is behind him

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- Connor McDavid's quick-strike ability made the difference for the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

The Oilers center got the puck in the neutral zone, rushed quickly between Vancouver Canucks defensemen Christopher Tanev and Quinn Hughes and lifted a shot past goalie Jacob Markstrom and under the crossbar for the game-winning goal at 14:37 of the third period in Edmonton's 3-2 victory at Rogers Place in the season opener for each team.

"[Defenseman] Matt [Benning] made a good play, pinching off the puck and threw it in the middle," McDavid said. "[Leon Draisaitl] just kind of stopped it up for me and I just tried to get it to the middle."

 

[WATCH: All Canucks vs. Oilers highlights]

 

Elapsed time of play, from when the Oilers captain first touched the puck to the time it was in the net, was three seconds.

"He attacks with such ... it's like, boom, he's there," said Dave Tippett, who won his debut as Oilers coach. "And it's hard to defend. He makes a lot happen out of nothing. It's exactly what he did there."

Video: VAN@EDM: McDavid uses speed to put Oilers on top

Oilers goalie Mike Smith, who made 31 saves for his first win after signing with Edmonton in the offseason, has seen this kind of opening-night story before; he made 42 saves for the Calgary Flames, but McDavid scored a hat trick in a 3-0 Oilers win on Oct. 4, 2017.

"I forgot about that," Smith said, smiling. "I've played with some pretty good players over my years in the League, and obviously a big reason I signed here was an opportunity to play. But to play with arguably one of the best players in the world is obviously something you don't get a chance to do every season. So, I think playing with a guy like that, [who] can change the game in the blink of an eye, playing on his side now is a lot more comforting."

There will be much comfort in Edmonton with McDavid off and running in the new season, his fifth in the NHL.

The Oilers already knew McDavid was fully recovered from a small tear of the PCL in his left knee, sustained in the final regular-season game at Calgary on April 6.

Following a rehabilitation period that lasted the entire offseason, the 22-year-old had one goal in two preseason games after the Oilers took a cautious approach during training camp.

McDavid's explosiveness is as good as ever. He appears ready to challenge his NHL career-best 116 points (41 goals, 75 assists) in 78 games last season, second in the scoring race behind Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who had 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists).

He played 5:38 in the first period of the season opener, 7:56 in the second and 8:20 in the third, when Tippett switched him to a line with Draisaitl and Zack Kassian. McDavid started the game with forwards Joakim Nygard and James Neal.

"He makes something happen out of nothing," Draisaitl said. "It's pretty incredible. I wish I was like that myself."

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