It's hard to imagine what it's like to be on the ice for a full two-minute shift in overtime. The lungs are running on empty, legs feel absolutely leaden, and the screaming thought in one's mind is simply to leave the ice immediately and collapse into a heap on the bench.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl had been on the ice for nearly two minutes as overtime was ticking to a close, each second like agony as the never-ending shift quickly evolved into the longest continuous shift in the game of not only McDavid and Draisaitl, but any other Oiler at any point of the night. With 20 seconds to go, McDavid was trapped in his own zone, flailing to try and touch the puck in any way and pointing at the bench to gesture for a change. With 15 seconds to go, he was desperately checking Marchessault into the boards, trying anything to just knock the Panthers off the puck and get some reprieve.
Just a few seconds later, however, everything had changed. Instead of aiming to retreat to the bench in exhaustion, Connor McDavid was starting to attack, taking an outlet pass from Leon Draisaitl and flying alone down the ice, already past the center line with seven seconds left. Because the fumes of a hockey prodigy are better than the fire of any regular man, McDavid mustered up just enough to dangle the puck past Reimer, his glove catching the puck but crossing the goal line fully for the overtime winner with 2.6 seconds left, McDavid's third point and 102nd of his career, and Leon Draisaitl's 100th point with the assist on the goal.
It takes a remarkable player to still be able to score a breakaway goal after a two minute shift in overtime, and remarkable play is what Connor McDavid has provided night after night, his heroics Wednesday night lifting the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-3 overtime victory over the visiting Florida Panthers, giving them 25 wins on the season and increasing their lead to three points above San Jose (who have yet to conclude their game) for second place in the Pacific Division, still two behind the Anaheim Ducks, who won in overtime last night.
It was a dramatic way to end a game that were marked by soaring highs but also sustained lows. Despite jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, the home team was listless from the midway point of the first to the beginning of the third, allowing the Panthers to charge back to claim the lead at 3-2 late in the third until Jordan "Monkey No More" Eberle tied it with just three minutes remaining. The negatives will be discussed, but it is another sign of growth and maturity that the team was able to recover from their fumbles and wrestle this game away from the clutches of the easier, more probable storyline.
The Oilers opened the scoring at 6:10 in the first when McDavid made a great cross-ice feed to Zack Kassian for his first goal in 38 games. McDavid looked almost more excited than Kassian in the celebration, capturing the combined joy of 50 Draisaitl goal celebrations into one, as he picked up his 38th assist and 100th career point on the goal.
Mark Letestu, special teams specialist and a special man in general, then made it 2-0 at 13:04 on the power play as the pass from Connor McDavid went off of Letestu's skate for his ninth of the season.
After taking the 2-0 lead, however, the Oilers decided they were actually reading Jane Austen on their Kindle in a café on a Sunday afternoon as opposed to playing an NHL hockey game, their play becoming increasingly sloppy with a litany of turnovers and bad passing from the midway point of the first period onwards. Vincent Trochek, taking advantage of the lapse, closed the gap to 2-1 as he sniped it over the shoulder of Cam Talbot off a 3-on-2 at 17:13.
After managing only five shots for most of the second period to the Panthers' 11, one wondered how long the Oilers could hang on to an increasingly precarious lead in this game as Benoit Pouliot took another offensive zone penalty to give the Panthers a power play late in the second. It finally happened with 1:25 left in the second period, as Michael Sgarbossa tied it at 2-2, tapping in the rebound off a shot from the point.
The Panthers continued their onslaught in the third period, and despite an improved showing from the Oilers, Florida took the lead with just 5:15 left in regulation off a goal from Jaromir Jagr to make it 3-2.
Little did they know, the Oilers had a secret weapon on their hands. You see, when a player like Jordan Eberle doesn't score for 18 games, chances are good he's going to pop one in very soon, having been bitten by the snake so much there's hardly any surface area left on his skin for the snake to bite anymore. When it seemed like the Oilers were in the midst of closing out an epic meltdown against a Panthers team that had just played last night, and the only positive coming out of the game would be McDavid's 100th point, Jordan Leslie Eberle decided to grab that monkey off his back and throw it javelin-style out Rogers Arena, scoring with 2:59 left in regulation to tie the game at 3-3. As far as goals go, they don't get much prettier than this-- streaking down the right wing with the puck on his stick, he took it to the net himself and fires it pack Reimer. As far as celebrations go, it was unusually emphatic for a laid-back player, the fist pump and roar revealing the underlying frustration bubbling beneath, the keen desire to do what he was best at again. It could not have been a more timely goal, and Eberle's ninth of the season sent this game into overtime.
The two teams traded chances in overtime, a couple of great plays by Kris Russell in the Oilers' end saving the day until Connor McDavid scored on that dramatic breakaway with just 2.5 seconds left. Yes, the Oilers may have gotten lucky with two points tonight, but it came off the successful warding off of witches and hexes by Jordan Eberle and a courageous burst of speed from a dying 19-year old boy. Warts and all, a win is a win and this one was earned in a special way.
- Well…Connor McDavid. Finished with 24:37 of ice time, three points, six shots, and a 58% in the faceoff circle. Superhuman.
- I would like to point out that Adam Larsson somehow had a CF% of 68.57% on a night when most of the team was sub-50%, despite having a Zone Start% of 16.67%. Klefbom was close behind with a +24/-16 with a 17.65% Zone Start, along with five shots on net.
- Cam Talbot was solid, once again, staying strong through the most grinding part of the season despite having played the most of any player in the NHL. Stopped 28 of 31 shots including a couple of dandies.
- Jordan Eberle has nixed the curse! Jordan Eberle is a free elf now!
- Gently pointing out that Eric Gryba was a team-worst +6/-13 in Corsi tonight and looked slow on a number of occasions. Matt Benning was sick, which is why he didn't play, and we missed him dearly.
- EVERYONE PRAY FOR JUJHAR
Game in a Haiku
His knees weak, arms are
heavy. He scores anyway
cause Mom’s spaghetti.