That’s too bad.
The forwards for the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively, are two of top goal-scorers in the NHL who put on a breathtaking display Saturday that has fans longing for more. McDavid scored another highlight-reel goal in the second period and finished a three-point night (two goals, one assist) with the game-winner 42 seconds into overtime to give the Oilers a 4-3 victory against the Maple Leafs at Rogers Place.
Matthews, who scored for a fifth straight game, and has points in seven in a row (nine points; six goals, three assists) and eight of his nine games played this season, was asked afterwards if it was as fun to play against McDavid as it was for fans to watch the duel between these two elite talents.
“I don’t know if I’d describe it as fun but it’s definitely always a challenge,” Matthews said.
Especially when each player is at the top of his game.
“That was a good hockey game,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. “The only thing that hockey game was missing was fans. The star players were in full force.”
Though fans have not been allowed in most arenas because of coronavirus concerns and have to wait four weeks for the next game between Edmonton and Toronto, there is a silver lining: the Maple Leafs and Oilers play five more times this season in the Scotia North Division.
It will be must-watch TV.
In the first four games, the Maple Leafs are 2-1-1. Matthews has played in three of them and scored a goal in each one. The Oilers are 2-2-0 and McDavid has scored seven points (three goals, four assists).
The game Saturday was unquestionably the best between the two this season and if the spectacular examples of skill exhibited by McDavid and Matthews are any indication, especially during a 115-second span in the second period, the best could be yet to come.
McDavid’s second goal of the game gave the Oilers the victory. His first earned him an early nomination for goal of the year.
With Edmonton leading 2-1, McDavid went end to end, blazing past Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman and around defenseman Jake Muzzin, then slipping the puck past goalie Frederik Andersen at 6:13 of the second.
The goal was reminiscent of the one he scored against the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 6, 2020. That time, he zig-zagged around Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly before making a few moves on goalie Michael Hutchinson.
Wayne Gretzky, the leading scorer in NHL history with 2,857 points (894 goals, 1,963 assists), was in a private box watching the game with McDavid’s parents and said afterward that the play “brought me out of my seat.”
Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie was a member of the Maple Leafs last season and has had a firsthand view of each goal.
“That’s just what he does,” Barrie said. “He’s been doing it since he came into the League.
“Just an incredible play from an incredible player.”
“What impresses you the most about Connor when he does that is the speed he carries the puck,” he said. “There’s a lot of fast players, but to do it carrying the puck and having control of the puck, that’s what makes it so dangerous. He’s as fast or faster than anybody in the League.
“I would dare to say he’s the fastest guy by a wide margin carrying the puck. It’s hard to defend.”
Matthews needed 1:55 to answer. He cut the Oilers’ lead to 3-2 by finishing a nifty give-and-go with linemate Mitchell Marner with a bad-angle shot into the top corner.
“I liked the way we responded,” Matthews said. “We didn’t get discouraged. We didn’t get down. You have a short memory, you get out there, you claw your way back into it.”
It’s that competitive spirit that makes the future matchups between McDavid and Matthews so appealing.
They were the No. 1 picks in the NHL Draft in back-to-back years, McDavid by the Oilers in 2015 and Matthews by the Maple Leafs in 2016. They spent about a month training together in Arizona starting in mid-November. Former NHL player Shane Doan, who ran the on-ice workouts in the Phoenix area, said the intensity between the two “was unbelievable.”
Now they are two of the hottest players in the NHL.
McDavid leads the NHL with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) heading into Edmonton’s game against the Ottawa Senators at Rogers Arena on Sunday (9 p.m. ET; SNW, TSN5, RDS, NHL.TV). The seven goals are tied for second with Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche, one behind Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks.
Matthews, is in a four-way tie for third with six goals, has scored 10 points (six goals, four assists) in nine games and leads the NHL with three game-winning goals, including the goal in Toronto’s 4-3 win against Edmonton on Thursday. The Maple Leafs don’t play again until Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks.
“It’s been a bit of a shotgun start to the season,” Matthews said, noting the short training camps and lack of exhibition games. “It will be nice to reenergize.”
After seeing what two of the best in the NHL did Saturday, imagine what might be in store a month from now when each should be in midseason form?
Fans can’t wait.