When I purchased a five-game ticket pack before the season started, I could not have anticipated that Thursday’s game against the Maple Leafs, one of the games included in my pack, would be the “Battle of the Basement.” Unfortunately, that was the case, as the Oilers and Leafs find themselves at the bottom of the NHL standings once again. However, the game was anything but meaningless.
The Oilers-Leafs game was not only a thrilling display of the game of hockey that I love, it was historic. Jordan Eberle scored his first career NHL hat trick and Connor McDavid put together his first five-point game as the Oilers pulled off a 5-2 win against Toronto at Rexall Place.
This was McDavid’s first chance to face off against his favorite childhood team, and he certainly did not disappoint. McDavid scored two goals and assisted on each of Eberle’s goals. Linemate Benoit Pouliot quietly had four assists as the Oilers’ second line combined for 13 points on the night.
“We needed this,” McDavid told reporters. “There was a lot of pressure on us coming in, playing against a team that was desperate and missing a lot of guys. They played a great game in terms of structure and not giving up too much. But it was a big night for us to start off the homestand.”
I still cannot believe I was in the audience to witness such a phenomenal game. Hockey is my life, and watching games like last night’s is an absolute privilege. If you are any kind of hockey fan, you know that watching McDavid is quite the experience in and of itself; this kid makes something out of nothing and is truly everything he was supposed to be.
But perhaps the most surprising part of the entire night was the fact that Eberle had never before scored a hat trick in the NHL. Eberle, who has 17 career two-goal games, scored into an empty net on a give-and-go feed from McDavid with 54 seconds left in the third to achieve that illustrious milestone. It was clear the Oilers wanted to get Eberle the puck late in the third period. Oilers coach Todd McLellan called a timeout with a late power-play opportunity, and it was clear the team was trying to feed Eberle the puck. When the power-play was unsuccessful, Eberle was able to capitalize off a nice feed from McDavid to put the puck in the empty net. Not only was it special to witness Eberle’s first ever hat trick, but it was great to see McDavid putting his teammate before himself, since he could have gone for his own first career hat trick. It’s just one more sign that McDavid is the real deal. It was special to be there to witness it.
“I think the more we play together, the better we will be,” Eberle said after the game. “Tonight was obviously our best, we put up goals and whatnot, but it was the little plays that I really liked. Coming out of our end, cycling, I thought we did a better job of that. Chemistry is not something you get right away, you’ve got to grow it a bit.”
The fact that Eberle had another strong game was no surprise to me. In my opinion, Eberle has been the most consistent Oiler throughout this extremely strenuous rebuilding process. I fully expect both of these franchises to get out of the dark ages very soon. Yes, I am fully aware that the Edmonton Oilers need more than one line to compete in this league. But I think even Maple Leafs fans would agree that Thursday was a magical night.
This is a game I will not soon forget.
Featured Image Credit: Andy Devlin-Edmonton Oilers