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Gretzky knows McDavid goal in Oilers win against Maple Leafs is great one

Calls it 'one of those special moments by a special player'

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Wayne Gretzky was in awe.

Gretzky, the leading scorer in NHL history, was in a private box with Connor McDavid's family at Scotiabank Arena on Monday when the Edmonton Oilers center scored a goal that had the capacity crowd of 19,507 standing to applaud.

Including The Great One.

"He brought me out of my seat," Gretzky told after the Oilers' 6-4 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs. "I've told him before that he does that to me. And he did that tonight.

"It was one of those special moments by a special player."

Video: EDM@TOR: McDavid pots jaw-dropping goal

Gretzky provided plenty of magical moments during his 22-season Hall of Fame career, scoring 2,857 points (894 goals, 1,963 assists) and winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player nine times.

As such, it takes a lot to impress Gretzky.

"Connor did that," he said. "And it's not the first time."

Gretzky, vice chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group, was beside Connor's father, Brian, when they saw McDavid cross the Toronto blue line midway through the third period. The Oilers were leading 5-3 and McDavid, with three assists earlier in the game, wanted to provide one of those special moments.

Mission accomplished.

As he approached Morgan Rielly, McDavid zigged at the very moment the Maple Leafs defenseman thought he would zag. With the crowd gasping in admiration at the move, McDavid put a couple more on Toronto goalie Michael Hutchinson before putting the puck into the net.

"I just tried to make a play. That was it," an understated McDavid said of the goal, which gave Edmonton a 6-3 lead at 11:26 of the third.

What a play it was. Just ask the Maple Leafs.

"I can't give you an idea of what that's like," Rielly said when asked about going against McDavid in that situation. "It's tough."

Hutchinson agreed.

"He's very shifty and changes speeds really well," Hutchinson said. "When he's coming in with that much speed, I was expecting him to be on top of me before I knew it but then he was able to hesitate a bit and got me to back in a little deep. 

"He's one of those players you have to battle and get a piece of it and unfortunately on that play I wasn't able to get my glove on it."

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McDavid grew up 45 miles north of Scotiabank Arena in Newmarket, Ontario. He and his father used to go to Maple Leafs games in this same building when Connor was a kid. It's admittedly a special place for him, but he'd never really had success there as an NHL player.

Until now.

In three previous games with the Oilers, McDavid had managed two points, both assists. He busted out in Game No. 4 in Toronto, adding three assists to his highlight-reel goal.

"It's definitely special," McDavid said. "It's a building our team has struggled in. Personally, I've struggled in it, so it was definitely fun to come in here and get a big win.

"Everyone wants to play well in their hometown, I had lots of friends and family in the building so it was fun to get one. It feels good. We haven't had a win in here since I've been a part of the Oilers. Definitely fun to get one."

Watching McDavid's exploits from the Oilers managerial box was Edmonton general manager Ken Holland, who continues to be amazed by the play of the young forward. 

Holland was the general manager of the Detroit Red Wings from 1997-2019. During that time, he oversaw eventual Hall of Famers like Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov.

In his mind, McDavid is different.

"I've never had a talent like this who is so young," Holland said. "He's only 22. He's only getting better. 

"Here's the thing: Our goal is to make the playoffs this year. Once you get in, anything can happen. I look at history and that's what it shows. 

"We have a window of opportunity with Connor and Leon Draisaitl. We have a plan and we'll try to add depth around them in the offseason. But when you have talents like that, all you need to do is get into the playoffs and, well, who knows."

As McDavid was holding his post-game scrum inside the Edmonton locker room, another Oilers Hall of Famer, Paul Coffey, was explaining why he wasn't surprised that the kid could pull of a play like that. He might have been the only person in the building who wasn't.

"That's why he's one of the best, if not the best player in the League," Coffey told "You expect that every single night. I do anyway -- because he can do it right? It's when he doesn't do it, it's like, what happened? 

"That's why he's great."

The Great One agrees.

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