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FIVE THINGS: McDavid’s line unbe-Leaf-able

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers downed the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2, largely due to the outstanding performance of one line in particular, led by a red-hot rookie. Let’s take a look at Five Things from this Oilers victory.

1. FIRST HATTY

You would have thought Jordan Eberle would have had a hat trick in the NHL before Thursday. The Oilers winger is no stranger to scoring goals, as he has 138 of them in 399 games. However, the hat trick had eluded him since coming into the league as the 22nd overall pick in 2008.

“It was kind of a running joke between (Taylor Hall) and I that every time I get two I get nervous,” said Eberle. “It was no different tonight. I had a couple chances in the third that I fumbled off my stick.”

Regardless of nerves, Eberle finally sealed a three-goal night with an assist from his centre, Connor McDavid (more on him shortly).

McDavid was also on hat-trick alert with two goals late in the third, but selflessly set up Eberle in front for the tap-in.

“When I passed to Connor I fully expected him to shoot it,” said Eberle. “He had two goals, so I was like ‘go for it.’ I kind of drove through and he made an unselfish play. I think there’s not much more you can say about the kid.”

2. McMAGIC

Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan was almost lost for words after his 19-year-old rookie centre recorded a five-point night.

“What do you say? His performance did all the speaking,” said McLellan. “You turn into a fan, as a coach and as a player, and you just admire what he and his linemates did.”

McDavid opened the scoring at 3:29 of the first with a solo effort out in front. The rookie went backhand-forehand, beating Jonathan Bernier. McDavid’s second goal of the night was a blistering wrister at 13:55 of the third. The centre factored in on all five of the Oilers goals.

Not too shabby for a rookie playing against his childhood team.

“It’s pretty special,” said McDavid. “Looking across and seeing that logo in warmup kind of gave me the chills a little bit. It’s special to have a game like that against them.”

3. TERRIFIC TRIO

We wrote about the debut of the Benoit Pouliot-McDavid-Eberle line when McLellan first put them together. They combined for seven points that game against Columbus. On Thursday, the line nearly doubled that first performance, combining for 13 points.

Eberle finished the night with his hat trick and an assist. McDavid had his two goals and three helpers. Pouliot recorded his first four-point night with four apples.

“That’s as well as Jordan has played all year, I think, all over the rink and along the boards and in the paint,” said McLellan. “Connor and Benoit Pouliot, the three of them had a tremendous night. Thank goodness, because we didn’t have many others going.”

Since coming back from injury, McDavid has 12 points in six games. Eberle has 10 points and seven goals since McDavid’s return. Pouliot has 10 points in his last six. McDavid’s return has sparked the best out of his linemates. In turn, they’ve helped the rookie, according to the head coach.

“Special players do that. They elevate,” said McLellan. “They get others excited, especially when you’re playing with them, and they’re able to pull you along. In turn, Connor needs some help at times too. I thought Jordan and Benoit, in particular, did that for him tonight. We talk about winning as a team. That line one as a line, a team of three.”

So far so good for that trio, but is the best yet to come?

“It’s early. You want to temper it a bit,” said Eberle. “I think the more we play together, the better we’ll be. I think tonight was obviously our best. Obviously, we put up goals and whatnot but the little plays I really liked, whether it was coming out of our end or cycling. We started doing a better job of that. Chemistry is not something you get right away, you’ve got to grow it a bit and it’s starting to.”

4. TALBOT'S EFFICIENCY

Perhaps overshadowed by the performances of the aforementioned forwards was Cam Talbot’s night in net for the Oilers against the Leafs. Talbot finished the game with 34 saves, including 14 against Toronto’s power play.

The Oilers goalie made several big saves, including stoning Mark Arcobello in close and denying the Leafs leading scorer, Leo Komarov, on a breakaway.

Photo by Andy Devlin.
5. DAVIDSON'S RISE

Brandon Davidson is a good story on the Oilers backend this season. The 24-year-old defenceman from Lethbridge, AB logged 25:06 of ice time against the Maple Leafs. That’s the most he’s played in a game all season. McLellan says he’s no longer surprised by the performance of Davidson, who is consistent.

“It’s not a surprise anymore. On his off-nights, it’s more of a disappointment and he doesn’t have many of them,” said McLellan. “It’s not a surprise anymore. I know when Jim Johnson rotates the backend and kind of controls their minutes, he trusts Brandon in so many different areas. We took far too many penalties, in my opinion, tonight again. And Eric (Gryba) and Brandon were very good on the penalty kill. They played a lot of minutes, successive minutes. We took three in a row and they were very good in that situation.”

Davidson was a sixth-round pick in 2010.
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