McDavid, Oilers face tough task at league-leading Washington
WASHINGTON — Connor McDavid, the 20-year superstar, against the NHL team with the best record. That’s the matchup Friday night when the Oilers visit the Capitals. Based on the first meeting, Washington already knows Edmonton is no mere one-man gang.
McDavid, the league’s top scorer with 68 points, is one of eight Oilers between 11-22 goals. Defenseman Kris Russell isn’t among them, but he scored the game-winning goal in the third period in Edmonton’s 4-3 victory at Florida on Wednesday. McDavid added to his points total with an assist on the play while the Oilers (33-20-8) returned to the win column following a 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Another defenseman, Oscar Klefbom, scored in the win. Edmonton has won three of four.
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“They were active, and that usually doesn’t (happen) when you are down a (defenseman) for half the night,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. Andrej Sekera received limited playing time after he was hit in the left arm by a puck. “But we still found a way to activate them and get them up on the rush.”
Edmonton found a way and then some with its 4-1 victory at home over Washington on Oct. 27. McDavid had two assists and Benoit Pouliot provided rare scoring punch with two goals. Goaltender Cam Talbot, tied for second in the NHL with 31 wins, made 34 saves.
At the point of the season, the Capitals were struggling. Times have changed. Washington (40-12-7) leads the league with 87 points and enters the rematch smiling after a 4-1 road win over the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday night.
Evgeny Kuznetsov’s two goals helped the Capitals snap a two-game losing streak.
“If I have a chance to shoot, I will always shoot,” Kuznetsov said to the Washington Post. “But if I see someone open, I’m always trying to pass.”
Braden Holtby had 33 saves in the win. The goaltender leads the NHL with a 1.99 goals against average.
Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and assist for the Capitals. Backstrom and Kuznetsov each scored on wrist shots through traffic.
“I don’t know how they see those holes or how they find them,” forward T.J. Oshie said of Kuznetsov and Backstrom. “Two really special players. It’s fun to be out there with them. No surprise that they’re able to find the back of the net.”
That pair has combined for 32 goals on the season — or 31 more than Russell, who found the back of the net for the first time this season with 12:02 left in the third period.
“It was nice to see ‘Russ’ get that game-winning goal,” Klefbom said of his fellow blue-liner
Washington is dealing with depth concerns. Forward Andre Burakovsky (hand) was placed on injured reserve Thursday. Defenseman Matt Niskanen suffered an apparent lower-body injury against the Flyers.
The Capitals recalled defenseman Aaron Ness and right wing Riley Barber from Hershey on Thursday.