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RECAP: Oilers 5, Maple Leafs 2

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON, AB – Jordan Eberle recorded his first career hat trick and Connor McDavid had five points as the Oilers rolled past the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2.

McDavid wasted no time in wounding his childhood team, depositing the game’s first goal behind Jonathan Bernier at 3:29 of the first. Benoit Pouliot chipped a pass out from the boards to the streaking rookie in the slot, who got behind the defence. McDavid went backhand-forehand and tucked the puck just past the outstretched pad of the Toronto netminder.

The rookie centre, raised in Newmarket, ON, grew up rooting for the Leafs organization. However, that goal put his current team on top 1-0. McDavid’s goal was his eighth of the season. In addition to Pouliot, Eberle contributed an assist.

McDavid, 19, would finish the game with two goals and three assists. The 2015 first-overall pick now has 24 points (9-15-24) in just 19 games this season, after missing 37 with a broken clavicle. Since his return, McDavid has 12 points in six games.

“What do you say? His performance did all the speaking,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “You turn into a fan, as a coach and as a player, and you just admire what he and his linemates did. That’s as well as Jordan has played all year, I think, all over the rink and along the boards and in the paint. Connor and Benoit Pouliot, the three of them had a tremendous night. Thank goodness, because we didn’t have many others going.”

The Leafs answered McDavid’s opening score at 8:06 of the first frame. Josh Leivo sniped a shot from the wing past goaltender Cam Talbot to even things up. Former Oilers defenceman Martin Marincin recorded the assist.

Leivo would not return to the game following the first period due to an upper body ailment.

Midway through the first, Talbot stopped another former Oilers player, Mark Arcobello, who tried to pick his shot in close. The sprawling save by the Oilers netminder kept the game even at one.

Talbot again came up big in the first with just under five minutes to go in the period. Talbot stoned Leafs leading scorer Leo Komarov on a breakaway.

“First period, we got out-played,” said Eberle. “They were out-battling us and out-working us. Things had to change and we understood that. We went on to the second and played a good period, but I still don’t think we played a full 60 minutes tonight, but at the end of the day we got the win and we’ve got to move from there.”

The Oilers got off to a better start to the second period. After being outshot 13-4 in the first, Edmonton went on an unanswered run of 10 shots in a row.

The Oilers ninth shot of the second, which evened the teams’ totals at 13, gave the home squad a 2-1 lead. After some sustained zone time and play in front of the Leafs net, Eberle potted his 16th of the season. Eberle was assisted by McDavid and Pouliot, at 6:25 of the second.

The Oilers got into penalty trouble in the back half of the second, stemming the Oilers momentum.

With 2:40 remaining in the second, Bernier stopped what would have been McDavid’s second of the night. Eberle centred the pass out in front from behind the Leafs net and McDavid crashed the crease but was halted by the goalie. The Oilers did, however, draw a penalty on the play.

Eberle was the one to get his second goal of the night, at 18:36, on that man advantage. After some nice passing, Eberle got the puck on the blocker side of Bernier and he made no mistake with his chance. McDavid and Andrej Sekera recorded the assists.

McDavid’s helper gave him three points for the game. Eberle has six goals in his last six games.

Toronto quickly answered Eberle’s score with 14.5 seconds left in the period. The puck took some odd bounces in front of Talbot and Jake Gardiner was the one to put it in and make it a 3-2 game heading into the third.

McDavid increased his total to a career high four points by rifling a wrister past Bernier at 13:55 of the final frame, extending the Oilers lead to 4-2. Pouliot and Mark Fayne each recorded assists.

McDavid set up Eberle for an easy tap-in on the empty net at 19:06 for the Oilers winger’s first career hat trick. Pouliot recorded his fourth assist of the game.

“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. When I passed to Connor I fully expected him to shoot it. 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.”

The Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night at 8 p.m. MT.
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