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You Can Only Contain Connor McDavid For So Long

Connor McDavid scores
Sportsnet

Last night’s Edmonton Oilers comeback win over the Montreal Canadiens featured maybe the Least Connor McDavid play I’ve ever seen in the second period, followed by perhaps the Most Connor McDavid play ever at the game’s climax.

The NHL’s most productive man—who’d be on pace for the most points in a year since Mario Lemieux in 1995–96 if this were a normal-length season—had to deal with some early frustration in this one when his ice-breaking first-period goal was called back because of ‘tender interference. But he only had himself to blame for his mishap in the second. With the Habs up 1-0 and on the power play, McDavid took an incredible rainbow pass from his goalie and suddenly found himself with a 2-on-0 alongside Jesse Puljujärvi. He passed to Puljujärvi, got the puck back and then … just couldn’t keep it on his stick. Jake Allen collected it with relatively minimal effort and breathed a sigh of relief.

But McDavid continued to lead the assault on Montreal’s goal throughout the third period, and it was his monopolization of Allen’s attention that opened up Ethan Bear for the tying score with ten minutes to go. Then, about five minutes later, he scored a game-winner that’ll stay fresh in both teams’ memories for weeks to come. McDavid took the puck away from the Habs in his own defensive zone and didn’t exactly look like he had a golden chance to take the lead—it was certainly nothing so striking as the opportunity he had on his earlier failure. But as Connor closed in on the pair of Montreal defenders blocking him from his target, he effortlessly split them with a move to his left, finding the space and angle he needed and then showing both patience and nerve as he fired the puck past Allen and provided his squad with two big points as they try their best to catch Toronto at the top of the division.

“I’m never really afraid to take on two defenders,” McDavid said afterward, adding, “It can get me into trouble sometimes,” in a bit of unnecessary humility that did not ring true on this particular night.