McDavid scores in OT, Oilers beat Capitals to snap skid
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — When the opportunity to beat the Washington Capitals in regulation and end their skid evaporated with less than two seconds left, Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers felt the pain that has been all too familiar lately.
Then McDavid made that all go away by scoring the overtime winner to give the Oilers a 4-3 victory Wednesday night and two valuable points in their playoff pursuit. Edmonton won for just the third time in nine games, snapping a three-game losing streak and moving one point back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“These are big points,” McDavid said. “They all are from here on out. We need to start piling them up.”
The reigning NHL MVP scored on a 2-on-1 with Leon Draisaitl 3:27 into the 3-on-3 OT with a shot goaltender Ilya Samsonov stood little chance of stopping. He also assisted on Kailer Yamomoto’s goal — Edmonton’s first on the power play in three games.
With all eyes on Alex Ovechkin’s chance to pass Jaromir Jagr for third on the NHL career goals list, the spotlight instead fell on longtime running mate Nicklas Backstrom, McDavid and an unlikely hero for the Oilers. Journeyman Brad Malone had a goal and an assist for his first NHL points in more than six years.
Malone picked up his first assist since Feb. 28, 2016, when he assisted on Cody Ceci’s goal in the second period. When he scored to put Edmonton ahead midway through the third period, it was the 32-year-old’s first goal since Dec. 3, 2015.
“It feels pretty awesome, to be honest,” Malone said. “I was just really happy that at the end of the game there we got the two points. It’s tough to have an individual game like that and feel good about yourself when you don’t get the two points.”
Backstrom can understand that feeling after scoring and assisting on T.J. Oshie’s first goal to reach the 1,000-point milestone. Oshie scoring his second of the game with 1.8 left in the third gave the Capitals an important point in the standings.
“It means a lot,” Backstrom said of his milestone. “I’m very happy about it. Obviously, we would’ve liked two points, but we tied it up there, Osh tied up there at the end, which gave us at least one point, so we’ll take that and move on.”
Despite Backstrom’s big night and a stellar 37-save performance by Ilya Samsonov, Washington’s winning streak ended at three.
Ovechkin was kept off the board, so the 767th goal of his illustrious career will have to wait until at least Friday when the Capitals visit former coach Bruce Boudreau and the Vancouver Canucks. In Edmonton, which has one of the highest concentration of Ukrainians and those of Ukrainan descent in North America, Ovechkin was booed by a small faction of fans each time he touched the puck.
The Capitals hold the second wild-card spot in the East and are a pretty safe bet to make the postseason barring a collapse and an improbable run by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Oilers are in the middle of a pack of teams fighting to get in.
Asked before the game what his team needs down the stretch to make it, Oilers general manager Ken Holland deadpanned, “Wins.” At this point, it doesn’t matter how.
Against the Capitals, it was the power play that has struggled for three months, a defenseman maligned for his play in previous stops, a mostly career minor leaguer skating in his 200th game in the NHL and, of course, their best player.
The Oilers’ power play, which led the league for the first two months of the season, was 18 of its previous 102 before McDavid made a near perfect play to beat Samsonov. Ceci scored later in the second by collecting a loose puck and shoveling it in. After Oshie scored on the power play to tie it for Washington, Malone came up big with just his 14th career goal.
“He’s a guy that you want to cheer for,” McDavid said. “We really like having him around. His game speaks for itself. He works hard, he plays physical, does everything right, so great to see him get rewarded.”
Mikko Koskinen made 29 saves in net for the Oilers, who have needed better goaltending in big stretches this season. With offense lacking at times, the combination of a solid showing by Koskinen scoring from McDavid down the lineup, they were able to end their latest skid.
Capitals: Finish their three-game Western Canada trip Friday night at Vancouver.
Oilers: Host defending champion Tampa Bay on Saturday night in the second game of a five-game homestand.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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