EDMONTON – Connor McDavid continues to show why he has been labelled as a potential generational talent.
McDavid had two goals and three assists as the Edmonton Oilers came away with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday in a battle between the NHL’s two lowest-ranked teams.
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“We needed this,” McDavid said. “There was a lot of pressure on us coming in, playing against a team that was desperate and missing a lot of guys. They played a great game in terms of structure and not giving up too much. But it was a big night for us to start off the homestand.”
Jordan Eberle scored three goals and added an assist for the Oilers (22-29-5), who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Along with a four-assist performance from Benoit Pouliot, the line combined for 13 points.
“I think the more we play together the better we will be,” Eberle said. “Tonight was obviously our best, we put up goals and whatnot. But it was the little plays that I really liked. Coming out of our end, cycling, I thought we did a better job of that. Chemistry is not something you get right away, you’ve got to grow it a bit.”
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said sometimes all you can do is sit back and watch McDavid, the 19-year-old phenom.
“His performance did all the speaking,” he said. “You turn into a fan as a coach and as players and just admire what he and his linemates did.”
Josh Leivo and Jake Gardiner replied for the Maple Leafs (19-25-9), who have lost three in a row.
“I didn’t mind our game to tell you the truth,” said Toronto head coach Mike Babcock. “We threw the puck away on their fourth goal, which I didn’t like to see, there was no reason to do that. But we got ourselves in a good spot and in the end. We didn’t finish and they did.
Edmonton scored on the first shot of the game 3:29 into the first period as Benoit Pouliot sent in McDavid on a breakaway and he deked around Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier to deposit his eighth goal of the season.
Toronto responded eight minutes into the first as Leivo picked the top corner to beat Oilers starter Cam Talbot. Leivo left the game later in the period with an upper-body injury.
Edmonton restored its lead six-and-a-half minutes into the middle frame as Eberle picked up a bouncing puck in front of the net and sent home his 16th of the year.
The Oilers made it 3-1 late in the second on a power play as McDavid spotted Eberle all alone at the side of the net and he potted his second of the game.
Toronto got one back with 15 seconds left in the middle frame as a Gardiner shot appeared to carom off a pair of Oilers before ending up behind Talbot.
McDavid salted the game away with six minutes left, scoring his second of the contest on a shot from the slot.
Eberle added an empty-net goal for his first career NHL hat trick after previously recording two-goal games 17 times.
Both teams return to action on Saturday as the Oilers play host to the Winnipeg Jets and the Leafs travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks.
Notes: Of the players acquired Tuesday in the nine-player trade that sent captain Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators, only forward Colin Greening was in the Leafs lineup. Milan Michalek (broken finger) and Jared Cowen (hips) did not dress.