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Distractions can't deter Connor McDavid

Oilers captain has three-point game in emotional rematch against Flyers

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid showed his sense of occasion again Thursday.

McDavid had a goal and two assists for his eighth three-point game of the season, helping the Oilers defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-3 at Rogers Place.

The pregame storyline had been an invitation to distraction, referencing a testy exchange of words between McDavid and Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning, during the game and after it, when the two teams played in Philadelphia on Dec. 8.

All of that noise was related to McDavid's broken clavicle that put him on the injured list for 37 games last season, an injury sustained after an off-balance McDavid got past Manning and both players fell into hard into boards in a game Nov. 3, 2015, and then the contentious rematch between the two players earlier this season.

McDavid steered clear of the matter in his interviews before the game Thursday and then was a force against the Flyers on most shifts, retaking the NHL scoring lead from Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

Video: PHI@EDM: McDavid fires a wrister off the iron and in

Crosby had a three-point game, including his 1,000th NHL point, earlier Thursday, to reach 64 points.

McDavid set up goals by Jordan Eberle and Oscar Klefbom in the second period and scored in the third to answer. He has 19 goals and 66 points, moving back to a two-point lead on Crosby.

"I saw he had his 1,000th point early on and it's obviously a pretty cool thing for him," McDavid said, insisting he was unaware Crosby finished with three points. "It was definitely nice to hook up with [Eberle] a few times. It's definitely nice to have him back [on the line]."

That McDavid did all his talking on the ice Thursday didn't surprise Oilers coach Todd McLellan.

"It's becoming routine for him," McLellan said. "The more we're around him, the more numb we become to those performances, that they're just expected.

"We probably talk about his lack-of-production performances [more] now than we will his three-point nights because they just happen. But I thought he rose to the occasion and [Eberle] played well and [Patrick] Maroon had a pretty good game, so that line stepped up."

The disagreement between the Oilers and Flyers, and specifically between McDavid and Manning earlier this season, was centered on who was to blame, if anyone, for McDavid's injury last season.

Each team was cautioned by its coach earlier in the day to focus on the game.

The Oilers strayed a few times. Milan Lucic slashed Manning in the first period and was penalized. Leon Draisaitl knocked Manning down in the second and was sent off for interference.

The temptations were many in the first two periods as the chirping and the shoves seemed constantly to be boiling below the surface. It was the second-period fight between Maroon and Manning that finally may have put the matter to rest.

"It's one of those things," Maroon said. "It's over and done with now. [Manning] plays the game really strong and plays the game really hard and we had our fight and it's over, done with.

"I'm a guy that's going to stick up for my teammates. But I'm going to do it the right way. I'm not going to go out there and cheap shot someone or go out there and jump a guy.

"He plays the game hard. You've got to tip your cap sometimes. Some words were exchanged and you hear those things and you want to stick up for your teammates, especially your captain."

Manning, who played 15:16, did not shy away from being a target during the game.

"It didn't bother me," Manning said. "I'm not scared of fighting. It was just a matter of time. I wasn't really worried or thinking about that today."

He said he was focused on hockey, not score-settling.

"I was going to go out and play hockey," Manning said. "I've been playing well. To go out and fight for the sake of fighting just isn't what I'm about."

Asked if the feud is finished, he said: "Let's hope so. I'd love that. Connor didn't say a word out on the ice tonight. Patrick said, 'Good job,' after [the fight]. We'd do the same thing if one of our superstars got hurt. We understand it."

The good signs for the Oilers, who begin a six-game road trip at the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, WGN, NHL.TV), are that they won a game full of distractions, that McDavid was dominant again, and that they've climbed to within four points of the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks.

History shows Edmonton had 70 points in 82 games last season; but with another hurdle cleared, that's becoming less and less relevant with each day of the 2016-17 season.

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