A Ferrari painted up like a race car with ‘97’ and ‘McDavid’ on the doors, Edmonton Oilers logos on the hood and sides in front of the rear wheels, decorated with blue lightning bolts and ‘Lets Go Oilers’ lining the top of the windshield, showed up on the streets of Edmonton Thursday.
The eyes of most of the hockey world were going to focus on Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in Game 5 to see if he could get back to replicating that on skates.
For some, it would be to see how the team that spent the last decade out of the playoffs and last season in 29th place could learn their lessons and bounce back from a 7-0 loss. But for most outside of Edmonton, finding the focus would be how the league’s 20-year-old Art Ross-trophy-winning scoring champion and likely Hart Trophy-winning regular season MVP would handle his own personal adversity.
Going into this one, McDavid had never gone three games without producing a point so far in his NHL career. He had a goal and an assist to show for the first pair of playoff games of his career and was shut out in both games in San Jose.
Maybe it was the frustration of being involved in a game that would become the most lopsided in all of Oilers Stanley Cup playoff history. Maybe it was because he’d been fed so much of San Jose Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic in this series he might never eat pickles again.
But there has been no night in his first two NHL seasons when we watched the Oilers captain lose his composure like he did in Game 4.
Whether it was pumping crosschecks in to back of a prone Timo Meier, taking a selfish penalty back-checking or any of the other incidents involving Joe Pavelski or Logan Couture, McDavid got caught running around like you never see from the mature-beyond-his-years, always under-control near-perfect hockey player.
McDavid had been the horse the Oilers rode to their 12-2 record down the stretch that provided them with 25 points during that run and home-ice advantage in the series.
Would he return to being the puck carrying, warp-speed producing, penalty drawing force with the Oilers coming off the 7-0 defeat in San Jose and returning to the incredible scene he helped create in Rogers Place?
McDavid chose to do his scrum at the morning skate at his locker while Leon Draisaitl had the stage in front of the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo to offer his mea culpa for spearing Chris Tierney in the crotch, and express his thankfulness for being let off with a fine instead of a suspension.
“It’s 2-2 in the series,” said McDavid after the morning skate where he’d been reunited with Draisaitl and given some speed to accompany him on left wing in rookie Drake Caggiula.
“We’re not playing soccer here. The games don’t carry over. There’s no aggregate.
“It was done early. It was forgotten about really quick. We got a split in San Jose. It doesn’t matter how we got to this point. It’s 2-2 and we have to win two of three.”
“You try and figure it out. It’s not a big deal. I’ve played against them enough times to know what to expect.”
At the morning skate, your correspondent asked coach Todd McLellan, considering what we’ve watched from McDavid so far in the series, how he viewed him going into this game.
“I see Connor being our captain and one of the top two or three players in the world that rises to the occasion often,” he said. “I view him as being in his first playoff series going against the same team night in and night out going against one of the top defensive pairs and individuals in Vlasic and some pretty good veteran checkers up front.
“And I view him as having 19 other players around him that have to help him."
With those words, it would be back to Rogers Place for Game 5 of the next chapter of the Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Orange Crush Era Story.
It looked like the Oilers were doing that early, as the 103-point team was all over the Sharks and took a 1-0 lead. But, down 2-1 after one, the chances stopped coming and McDavid couldn’t convert the ones he had.
The Oilers went from winning all the little battles in the first 10 minutes to losing most of them until late in the second period, when it was McDavid's open ice hit on Marcus Sorensen sent the Shark sprawling. It was the biggest cheer since the Oilers opened the scoring.
McDavid finally produced his point late in the second period on Mark Letestu's power-play goal to bring the Oilers back to within one, going to the dressing room down 3-2.
With 2:46 remaining, David Desharnais set up Ocar Klefbom with Zack Kassian in front to tie the game and turn Rogers Place to an absolute madhouse. It was 3-3 and going to overtime.
A game in which the Oilers body language all but said they were dead in the middle of the second period said something entirely different as they went through overtime like they were on a perpetual power play.
The focus had left McDavid – who saw 30:27 of ice time along with Draisaitl's 28:11 – and spread around to everybody wearing Oilers orange as they had chance after chance after chance after chance.
And the story line leaving Rogers Place this night was that no matter what happens in San Jose in Game 6, there will be more Stanley Cup playoff hockey to be played in Edmonton this year.
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