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GAME STORY: Oilers 3, Flames 0

Connor McDavid became the first Oiler in franchise history to record a hat trick in a season opener and Cam Talbot made 26 saves for his first shutout of the 2017-18 season

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Connor McDavid became the first Oiler in franchise history to record a hat trick in a season opener and Cam Talbot made 26 saves for his first shutout of the 2017-18 campaign.

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The Oilers hit the road to play the Vancouver Canucks Saturday at 8 PM MDT. The game can be watched nationally on Hockey Night in Canada or heard on 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.

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Leon Draisaitl had two assists while Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic registered one each themselves. The Oilers were 54 percent on the dot, went 0-for-2 on the man-advantage and peppered the Flames with 45 shots on goal - 42 of which were stopped by goaltender Mike Smith - but the story of the night was McDavid's performance.

"He doesn't go from first to second to third to fourth gear," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan of McDavid's speed. "He just goes from first to fourth and he's gone."

By committee, the Oilers also played strong defensively. 

"The way we won, the ability to defend and to not give up a lot was important for us," said McLellan, telling how that is indicative of the strides made between this year and last.

"When we started last year, I thought we were out-scoring our mistakes. Tonight we didn't make very many of them and didn't need to do that."

The Oilers Captain had been waiting for the drop of the puck on the 2017-18 season.

That he made clear.

The centre got Edmonton their first dangerous opportunity on his first shift after he received a breakout pass from Draisaitl. At highway speed, McDavid flew through the neutral zone uncontested then split Calgary defenders Dougie Hamilton and TJ Brodie, isolating himself for a clear chance against Smith. The centre chose to go to his backhand but Smith thwarted the attempt by stretching his left pad.

"Not the feeler I wanted to start with," said the Flames' goalie. "That's the type of player he is. When he has space and time, he can wind it up and create some pretty unique scoring chances."

McDavid's thirst for an early marker wasn't quenched until 11:01 of the opening frame. Edmonton's top unit of Maroon, McDavid and Draisaitl - one of the premier lines in the NHL throughout the 2016-17 season - picked up where they left off last season by piling heavy pressure on the Flames midway through the frame. The trio directed shots at Smith from all angles until the puck got to Oscar Klefbom at the left point. His slap shot was wide but bounced off the end boards to Maroon. The Big Rig found Draisaitl at the side of the net, with his shot kicking off the pad of Smith to McDavid just outside the crease. McDavid tucked it home, causing Oilers fans to chant "MVP" directly after. Maroon and Draisaitl recorded the assists.  

"That gives me chills every time, honestly," said McDavid. "It means the world to me that the fans are behind us and behind me."

Video: McDavid, Oilers shut out Flames in season opener, 3-0

The Orange & Blue maintained the momentum they sparked in the second period and much of it was fuelled by the top line. Through the early minutes of the frame, Edmonton went on a 7-0 shot run causing all sorts of mayhem for Calgary.

Amid the onslaught, Drake Caggiula was injured. As the Oilers were breaking out of their zone and Caggiula was about to change off the ice, he collided with Calgary winger Garnet Hathaway, who was also on his way to the bench. Caggiula stayed motionless for a few seconds but got up and left to the Oilers Dressing Room. The forward returned to the ice late in the period.

Smith continued shutting the door in his first start with the Flames organization, keeping the game within one through the middle frame. At one point, a Klefbom clapper raised up on the netminder, catching him square on his mask and knocking it off his head.

"That one was one of the hardest shots I have ever seen," said McDavid. "I don't understand how Smith popped up like that but that was a great shot."

The former Arizona Coyotes netminder, who had stopped 26 of 27 shots at the time, went down but popped up immediately seemingly unfazed - and it showed when he made a desperation save on Maroon later in the period.

Draisaitl entered the Flames' zone, attracting three Calgary players towards him. The Deutschland Dangler then transported the puck over to Maroon but Smith got a piece of his wrist shot to keep the game 1-0.

In the third, Maroon, McDavid and Draisaitl maintained their oppressive play. Working from behind the net, McDavid got a puck through to Draisaitl, who mustered a shot on goal from his knees but Smith snared it. 

McDavid, already with one goal on five shots in 16 minutes played, added his second marker of the night on his sixth shot. The 20-year-old picked up the puck in the Oilers zone and turned up ice. The centre pulled away from the Flames' players chasing him, barreling down on Smith while handling a rolling puck. McDavid settled it flat just in time for him to roof it over Smith's glove for his second of the game and season. The goal was unassisted. 

"Just an unbelievable goal by an exceptional player," said Talbot. "He picks the puck up at our hashmark and just out-skates everyone. Every time he gets the puck he has that ability."

McDavid added an empty-netter to record the hat trick - becoming the first Oiler in franchise history to do so in a season opener.

Next up for the Oilers is a meeting with the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. Puck drop is at 8 PM MDT and the game can be watched on Hockey Night in Canada.

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