Mike Smith makes 31 stops in his Oilers debut with McDavid notching the game-winner in a 3-2 opening night victory for the Oilers over Vancouver
EDMONTON, AB - Game 1 of 82.
It was one goal apiece through 40 minutes, one goal to tie the game, and one goal from the one-and-only Connor McDavid to lift the Oilers to a 1-0 record in a 3-2 downing of the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night in their '19-20 Home Opener at Rogers Place.
After watching his normal linemates from last season in Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian get in on the fun in the first two periods, McDavid wasn't going to be denied.
The Oilers captain split the Canucks defence with under six minutes remaining and got a friendly assist from a defender to have the puck sit up perfectly before being lifted into the top-left corner over Canucks netminder Jacob Markstrom for the crucial game-winning goal.
"(Matt Benning) made a good play pinching off the puck, throwing it in the middle, then Drai just kind of stopped it up for me and I just tried to get it to the net," McDavid said.
Draisaitl got the opening goal early in his quest to eclipse the 50-goal plateau once again after achieving the feat last campaign before providing the assist to an electric Kassian midway through the second period, tying the game after Tanner Pearson's tipped effort from the shot by Tyler Myers looked to spoil Edmonton's opening act.
"I told you guys before the season - he's a skilled player," Draisaitl said to the media of the Windsor, Ontario product. "I don't think he gets enough credit a lot of the time for his skill-set and his hockey sense. He's fun to play with, and he really does it all if you watch his game."
The Deutschland Dangler notched a goal and two assists on the night to go along with Kassian's goal and assist, with Benning recording two helpers and Darnell Nurse chipping in with one assist.
Despite McDavid putting on a show for the Rogers Place faithful on the game-winning goal, the captain could only deflect and point to the duo as the real stars of the night with their ability to flip the game script.
"Leon was a horse as he always is," McDavid said post-game. "Kass brought a lot of energy tonight like he does as well, so it's a really good start for those two and something I look forward to watching all season."
The Oilers got the goaltending they needed from Mike Smith in the netminder's first start with his new club, parrying away 31 of 33 shots and making the crucial save with the Canucks up an extra man with Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom pulled in the final moments.
"I thought we did a lot of good things out there," Smith said. "It was a huge team win for our group, and we never crumbled there down 2-1."
No matter how you arrive there, getting that winning feeling going early with two points is the only thing that matters when the dust settles.
"Obviously I love to win, so it feels good to get that first one under my belt here."
The Oilers penalty kill, a focus for Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett throughout Main Camp and his assembly of the club's bottom-six forwards, looked to have the stop necessary to maintain their slim advantage in the second period until Alexander Edler's point shot found the five-hole through Smith mere moments after Colby Cave exited the box.
Tippett received a perfect 4-for-4 evening from his penalty kill as one detail of many from Training Camp that got a passing grade despite a first game feel-out process.
"Goaltending was good," Tippett said. "I didn't like how much we defended and how many attempts we gave up on our net, but I like how much we competed to try and defend our net. There were a lot of battles down low. Our coverage was alright, there was a lot of outside movement they had, but our puck play's got to improve. The overall 'how hard we looked to compete' was pretty good."
The Oilers aim to continue early winning ways at home when they host the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.