Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) makes a move to get past Vancouver Canucks’ Alexander Edler (23) during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) makes a move to get past Vancouver Canucks’ Alexander Edler (23) during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Connor McDavid nets hat trick as Oilers cruise past Canucks 5-2

Edmonton avenges opening-night NHL loss to Vancouver

Connor McDavid scored a hat trick and added an assist as the host Edmonton Oilers beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 Thursday for their first win of the NHL season.

Leon Draisaitl, the NHL’s top scorer last season, added four assists in the win.

The game was held in front of no fans and empty stands at Rogers Place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice and added an assist for Edmonton. Mikko Koskinen, making his second start in two nights, turned back 38 shots for the win.

Nate Schmidt and Tyler Motte replied for Vancouver and Thatcher Demko stopped 41 shots in the loss. Vancouver defenceman Quinn Hughes had an assist and now has three on the season.

Both teams now have one win and one loss in what will be an abbreviated 56-game season, with all seven Canadian teams playing each other exclusively in the North Division.

McDavid, second to Draisaitl in the NHL scoring race last year, was held off the scoresheet in Edmonton’s 5-3 loss to Vancouver Wednesday but buzzed the Canuck net all night Thursday. Draisaitl now has five points on the year – all assists. The Oilers also got their power play back on track. They scored twice with the man advantage after going 0 for 4 in Wednesday’s opener. Edmonton had the top power play in the NHL last season at 29.5 per cent effectiveness.

The game saw Edmonton hold the edge in play, but the Canucks refused to go away.

Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring on the power play at 7:59 of the first period. He jumped on the rebound when a Draisaitl wrist shot clanged off the post, backhanding the puck over the goal line. McDavid made it 2-0 on an extraordinary goal with less than one second to go in the period. Draisaitl won the faceoff to Demko’s left, drew the puck back to Kailer Yamamoto, who fired the puck off Demko’s pad. McDavid drove to the net and, with Canuck defender Schmidt draped all over him, flipped the puck up and under the crossbar.

There were four goals in the second period. Schmidt made it 2-1 when he blasted a low slapshot from the point through traffic that bounded in and out of the net so fast it wasn’t immediately clear it had gone in. McDavid then restored the two-goal lead, on the power play, racing at full speed into the Canuck zone, catching Vancouver defender Alex Edler flat footed, cutting inside and delivering a no-look blazing wrist shot stick side and in.

READ MORE: Boeser scores 2, Vancouver Canucks dump Edmonton 5-3 in NHL season opener

Motte brought Vancouver back to within one, deflecting a low blue-line slapshot from Travis Hamonic past Koskinen. Then McDavid again, jumping in front of Demko, taking a pass from Draisaitl and jamming the puck in on the rebound for his seventh NHL regular season hat trick. The last time he got a hat trick was also in front of no fans, in early August against the Chicago Blackhawks in the so-called bubbled play-in round to determine the 2019-20 season playoff seeding.

After he scored in August, arena staff hustled down the stairs and honoured hockey tradition by tossing ball caps over the glass and onto the ice to mark the hat trick. McDavid later said he found the lid toss an unnecessary distraction. This time, no hat toss.

Edmonton made it 5-2 with just over eight minutes left in the game. Nugent-Hopkins drove to the net through traffic and redirected a Yamamoto pass past Demko.

Notes: It was the second of 10 meetings between the two teams. Vancouver now heads to Calgary for games on Saturday and Monday. Edmonton hosts Montreal on those same two nights. Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner was called up from the taxi squad to back up Koskinen after Mike Smith was declared inactive.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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