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Even in defeat, Oilers' McDavid steals the show

Rookie makes highlight reel with missed shot against Montreal

by Arpon Basu @arponbasu / Managing Editor LNH.com

McDavid's fancy shot attempt

EDM@MTL: McDavid dangles defense, shoots through legs

2/6/16: Connor McDavid puts the moves on a defender and barely misses the net on a through-the-legs shot with a high degree of difficulty

  • 00:34 •

MONTREAL - It was Hockey Day in Canada, and the country's brightest young hockey hope was on center stage.

Except for much of the game Saturday between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens, rookie Connor McDavid hadn't really left his footprint on his first professional game in Montreal.

Then, it happened.

It will go down in the statistical annals of McDavid's career as a shot that missed the net. But if ever a missed shot could be the most exciting highlight from a game that featured six goals, five by the home team, this was it.

It was so thrilling the Bell Centre crowd spontaneously applauded as it attempted to decipher what had just happened. To McDavid, though, it was a logical, almost routine thing to do.

"It was just something I guess the moment presented," he said.

McDavid picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and went in 1-on-2 against Canadiens defensemen Alexei Emelin and Jeff Petry. McDavid went inside out on Emelin, who couldn't reasonably expect McDavid to move laterally the way he did at the speed he was moving and was immediately a non-factor on the play.

That left Petry and Canadiens goaltender Ben Scrivens. Petry placed his stick across McDavid's, making the shot a difficult one, and Scrivens moved over to cut off the short side because that is what any sensible goaltender would do in that situation.

Then McDavid, moving at considerable speed, pulled the puck between his legs and shot it, just missing the far top corner.

McDavid did it so fast, no one was entirely sure what he had done. 

"From the bench, it happened so quickly you couldn't even tell that he went between his legs," Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. "So for me, I think at this level what blows me away are players that can do these things at top speed. A lot of guys can do them, but at top speed in a game situation?"

It was one play in a game the Oilers would lose 5-1, a game they were already losing by that same score with under five minutes remaining, but it showed the unique combination of tremendous quickness and skill McDavid has in his toolbox.

And what makes it even more impressive is that McDavid didn't even think it was that big of a deal.

"I just thought it was the best play possible," he said. "I couldn't really pull it back and shoot, and Scrivens was kind of cheating on the one side, so I tried to get a little creative and make something happen. But obviously it didn't work."

Ho-hum.

In the other Bell Centre dressing room, the player who had the best look at the move didn't agree with McDavid's assessment.

"He made a good move. You think he's going to take it wide and throw a backhand, and then he goes between the legs. It was impressive," Petry said. "I've never seen that. I've seen the move, I've seen it in a shootout and stuff like that, but never in the game at full speed."

The best person to assess McDavid's game Saturday was Subban, who was matched against him for most of it.

Subban and McDavid have a long relationship, dating to the days Subban's brother, Jordan, played with McDavid in minor hockey in the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

McDavid came into the Canadiens zone 1-on-1 against Subban late in the second period, and Subban was able to successfully veer McDavid out of harm's way before skating up ice and scoring his fifth goal of the season to make the score 4-0 Montreal at 18:01 of the second period.

Just before McDavid pulled off "The Move," Subban played a little game of cat-and-mouse with him in the neutral zone when he doubled back a few times with the puck while McDavid was trying to take it away. Subban said he was "just trying to see what he had up his sleeve" on the play, and he found that McDavid had plenty.

"He's a superstar," Subban said. "He's really, really, really good. I mean, the plays he can make with the puck, there's very few guys in the League right now that can make those plays. I look forward to seeing him in four or five years when he's really comfortable in the League to see what he can do when their team's probably going to be a lot better than it is right now."

And that's the scary thing.

McDavid turned 19 on Jan. 13. Saturday was his 16th NHL game. Already, the list of NHL players who are more skilled than McDavid is a very short one, assuming he's not already at the top of it. 

Oilers coach Todd McLellan and McDavid's teammates will get to see many more plays like the one he made Saturday at Bell Centre, and they won't necessarily come in games Edmonton is trailing 5-1.

It's been a long, painful rebuild in Edmonton, one that has seemingly had no end. Watching McDavid play, it's difficult not to believe that end is arriving quickly.

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