EDMONTON, ALBERTA – The Wild contained almost everyone in the Oilers’ lineup except the one player the team had to be most cautious of when he was on the ice.
Connor McDavid had a hand in most of Edmonton’s offense, as the NHL’s reigning MVP lifted the Oilers to a 4-1 win over the Wild Saturday at Rogers Place that spoiled goalie Devan Dubnyk’s bid at 200 wins in the city that gave him his start in the NHL.
“That’s a bad guy to turn the puck over to,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
This setback also sabotaged the Wild’s chance at sweeping the week; instead, the team returns home after a 1-1 showing in a back-to-back on the road after upending the Canucks 5-2 Friday in Vancouver.
McDavid stirred the Oilers out of their slumber with two second-period goals.
On the first, he scooped up a loose puck in the neutral zone, scooted around defenseman Ryan Suter and beelined for the net where his initial shot was stopped. But like it tends to do with superstars, the puck found McDavid again and he directed it into a mostly empty net 9 minutes, 11 seconds into the frame with Dubnyk off to the side after the initial save.
“You can’t turn the puck over in the neutral zone like that when he’s on the ice,” Dubnyk said. “Pretty straight forward. It’s usually going to end up that way.”
At 12 minutes, McDavid added an insurance goal on the power play – wiring a wrist shot through traffic for his 33rd goal.
“We have three, four chances to clear the puck on that penalty kill, and it ends up off a stick in the back of the net,” Dubnyk said. “That’s usually how it goes when you don’t clear the puck. So those are avoidable mistakes, and unfortunately it was the difference.”
The Oilers were much more energized after those goals – a stark contrast to the way the team started, as it looked like it was sleepwalking through the first. That period didn’t flatter the Wild much more, with the group skating like a team finishing off two games in two nights with travel.
But the Wild still had the puck more often, racking up an early shot advantage. At one point, its edge was 11-2. The Oilers didn’t their first shot on Dubnyk until more than five minutes had elapsed in the period. This barometer, however, was somewhat deceptive.
Few of those looks actually registered as quality chances, and the Wild churned little momentum out of the minutes it logged in Edmonton’s end.
Still, not being able to squeeze any offense out of those shots on the Oilers’ Cam Talbot was costly.
“It was a pretty typical game with the travel last night,” Dubnyk said. “There wasn’t a lot of energy going on. We had most of the puck possession, but we couldn’t really seem to get anything going.”
The Wild finally erased Talbot’s shutout bid in the third.
Winger Tyler Ennis set up winger Charlie Coyle at 9:44, the third straight game that line (which also features center Matt Cullen) has contributed. Overall, the unit has nine points in its last three games.
But that’s as close as the Wild would get, with Talbot steady the rest of the way to pick up 32 stops.
Center Leon Draisaitl added a third on the power play when he kept the shot on a three-on-one rush with 3:35 to go.
“We still had time,” Boudreau said. “It’s a 2-1 game. We’ve got to kill the penalty first before you start scoring goals.”
Fellow center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored an empty-netter 1:02 later, a shot that was assisted by McDavid to cap off his three-point night. He has 84 on the season, the third-most in the league.
Edmonton finished 2-for-2 with the man advantage; the Wild was 0-for-3. At the other end, Dubnyk made 24 saves.
“We were able to get some energy in the last half of the third period,” Dubnyk said. “But that’s not giving yourself too much time.”