Connor McDavid delivers in a big way, leading Edmonton Oilers to 6-3 win over Philadelphia Flyers
When Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid shockingly inferred last December in Philadelphia that Flyers defenceman Brandon Manning had intentionally tried to hurt him when the youngster broke his collarbone in his rookie NHL season, McDavid’s post-game sidebar became the headline story.
Angry words, big, bold type, after the run ‘n’ gun Oilers’ loss to the Flyers.
In the rematch Thursday, it wasn’t quite All Quiet on the Western Front.
Punches fired, shots and goals, lots of them.
While McDavid did his talking on the ice, punctuating the Oilers’ 6-3 win with his 19th goal and two assists, linemate Patrick Maroon went after his pound of flesh midway through the second period against the willing but over-matched Manning, who figuratively was wearing the black hat even though he had on a white helmet.
“Some words were exchanged (last time) and you have to stick up for your captain. If it wasn’t me, I’m sure it would have been somebody else on our team,” said Maroon, who also won a fight against Manning a year ago, when the Oilers winger played for Anaheim. “I’m a guy who’ll stick up with his teammates and I’ll do it the right way.
“So, I won’t go out and cheap shot anybody. I’m not going to jump a guy. He asked me to go. It’s one of those things, we had our fight and it’s over and done with. He’s a tough kid. He plays the game strong and hard and you have to tip your hat to him.”
How hard was it to the villain here?
“It didn’t bother me. I’m not scared of fighting, it was just a matter of time. I wasn’t really worried or thinking about that today,” said Manning. “I wasn’t going to (fight) on their terms. I was going to go out to play hockey. I’ve been playing well. To go out and fight for the sake of fighting just isn’t what I’m about.”
Is the feud over?
“Let’s hope so. I’d love that,” he chuckled. “Connor didn’t say a word out on the ice tonight. Patrick said, ‘Good job,’ after (the scrap). We’d do the same thing if one of our superstars got hurt. We understand it.”
McDavid stood back and watched the duel like a good fight fan.
“Big fight, couple of big boys going at it. Credit to both of them,” said McDavid, who set up Jordan Eberle for his first goal in nine games and helped Oscar Klefbom to his 10th of the year to stay two points (66-64) ahead of Sidney Crosby for the NHL points lead. Crosby also had three points in the Penguins’ overtime win over Winnipeg earlier Thursday.
“Did you know he’d moved ahead of you in the scoring race?” somebody asked.
“No, I didn’t. I saw he had his 1,000th point early on. Pretty cool for him,” said McDavid, whose three points aside (his 20th multi-point game in only 16 and a half minutes of playing time) had plenty of help from his teammates.
Matt Hendricks scored early on a long wrister to score in his second straight game, and added an assist to give him 100 career points. It was his first two-point game since Dec. 21 against Arizona, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl also beat Michal Neuvirth, who gave up five in his first 17 shots.
Nugent-Hopkins’s goal to make it 4-1 in the middle frame came off a Manning assist when Eric Gryba’s shot glanced off the defenceman’s skate, then Nugent-Hopkins’ leg for his first goal in seven games.
Hendricks will go for a goal in three straight games in Chicago Saturday, rare stuff for him.
“When’s the last time that happened? Back in peewee probably,” he laughed. “I’d have to check the stats. I don’t know if they go back that far.”
Reaching 100 points is a nice achievement for the heart-and-soul guy who played his 500th career game last month.
“A feather in my cap, good feeling. At the end of the day I can say I got 100 points in the NHL. Never thought I’d get here,” said Hendricks, who gets most of his goals on greasy, blue-paint work, but beat Neuvirth like a rented mule with his shot. “I don’t get many 45-footers. I think Neuvirth would like that one back.”
Defenceman Radko Gudas, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn with his league-leading 13th power play goal, scored on Oilers’ goalie Cam Talbot, who quietly made the save of the game on Jake Voraceck’s breakaway just before Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins scored 75 seconds apart in the second.
The pre-game hype was all McDavid and Manning, though.
“I said my spiel last game,” McDavid told the media after the morning skate, before going about his business of skating, shooting and scoring against the Flyers. He didn’t get in Manning’s face as he did two-and-a-half months ago, chirping, pushing and shoving. Instead, he got onto the stats sheet.
In the end, what he did on the 85-by-200 foot playing sheet and what his teammates contributed in goals and assists resonated more as the Oilers reached 70 points to tie their entire point total from all 82 games last year.
Manning, who calmly said he wasn’t the dastardly type to intentionally hurt McDavid or anybody else, reiterated that he was bothered by what McDavid’s not-so-friendly fire back n December.
“I was a little disappointed in the comments of Connor,” he said after a morning meeting at Rogers Place.
ON THE BENCH: The clean-shaven Gryba had an assist and eight hits to lead everybody on the night. “I had to prove to people my power wasn’t in my beard,” he joked . . . Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Hendricks and Maroon all had two-point games as every Oilers player was on the ice for at least 10 minutes.
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