EDMONTON — Reflecting on his first four-goal game in the NHL, Connor McDavid says that just hours before faceoff he was texting with a childhood buddy who served up some tips on offence for the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner.
“He was telling me how to score and giving me all this advice. I thought it was kind of funny,” McDavid told reporters after practice Tuesday at Rogers Place.
“He tells me he’s (now) going to text me more often.”
McDavid electrified the home crowd Monday night, scoring four and adding one assist in a statement 6-2 defeat of the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
McDavid scored one off a deflection and one off a lucky bounce but used his famous jet speed early in the second period to swoop in on the left wing to lift the puck through a sliver-sized hole over the short-side right shoulder of Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
In the third period, he used the afterburners once again in a breakaway that ended in a forehand deke and a shot under the crossbar against Vasilevskiy’s replacement, Louis Domingue.
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said it’s the kind of dominating performance that doesn’t get just the fans buzzing.
“Even on the bench you become a fan,” said McLellan.
“The way he scored his goals, you could hear players talking about the skill, the speed.
“I often hear them talking about what the opposition feels like, (as in) ‘I wonder what he thinks of Connor coming down on him at that pace?’”
Winger Ryan Strome said when the players see McDavid take control, they stand in awe of it, but never let McDavid know it.
“He actually gets a lot of chirps (on the bench) but he takes it pretty good,” said Strome, with a smile. “He’s such a good player you can’t praise him all the time, right? You try to keep him a little bit honest.”
Strome wouldn’t detail the nature of the verbal jabs Monday night, but said it’s a form of locker-room respect.
“He works the hardest in practice, he’s dedicated, he’s the best player in the league.
“He deserves all the credit he gets.”
McDavid has eight points in the last three games.
He began the game in 13th spot in the NHL scoring race and finished tied for third at 61 points.
McDavid won the Art Ross scoring title last year, and was asked how much it means to keep the title.
“There are so many guys that are in the mix. Everyone is within five, six points of each other. Guys can score three or four points a night and it changes drastically. I try not to pay too much attention to it,” he replied.
McLellan says when the core players are playing with confidence, it lifts the entire team, but says the challenge now is to keep the momentum going.
The Oilers are 23-24-4 and sit 13th in the Western Conference. They play 12 games in the next 21 days, with many against conference foes they need to leapfrog to reach a wild card spot.
Edmonton needs to make up 11 points and move ahead of five other teams to do it — a daunting task.
Strome said they still believe.
“There’s absolutely a ton of hope in our dressing room,” said Strome.
“If we play like we did against (Tampa Bay) we’ll be fine, and obviously he (McDavid) is going to be the one that is leading us.”