As McDavid’s Oilers surge, Crosby’s Penguins simply look lost

As McDavid’s Oilers surge, Crosby’s Penguins simply look lost

EDMONTON — There has always been a strange symmetry between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Edmonton Oilers, two clubs that have hogged hockey’s last four generational players from the rest of the National Hockey League.

When the Oilers were winning five Stanley Cups in the 80’s, the Penguins were nowhere to be seen. Then, when Mario arrived, and later Sidney Crosby, the failing Oilers watched each of the Penguins’ five Stanley Cups from the various lakes and golf courses of a hockey player’s summer.

Today, the contending Oilers tend to toy with the flagging Penguins, winning the last five meetings each by a decisive score. They beat Pittsburgh for fun most nights, whether it’s the 7-2 romp at Pittsburgh a year ago, or the 6-1 lickin’ the Oilers put on Pittsburgh Sunday night at Rogers Place.

Edmonton is quick and plays fast. Pittsburgh is slow, their best players ageing out.

The Oilers will be buyers as Friday’s NHL Trade Deadline approaches. The Penguins had better be sellers, nine points out of a playoff spot with three teams to pass.

On Sunday, the contrast was stark.

Good beat average by five goals, in a game you could replay 10 more times and not get a different result.

“I thought our execution was really noticeable tonight,” said Oilers winger Warren Foegele, who was not referring to the Penguins’ state of liveliness. “Making clean passes and making the right decisions at the right time. Everyone was contributing.”

Eight days prior, the Oilers had dropped a Hockley Night In Canada game at home to the hated Calgary Flames. It marked the nadir of a post-All-Star week drop off, and since then Edmonton has cured itself, reeling off four straight wins.

They’ll wake up Monday morning in second place in the Pacific, a full three points up on Vegas (with two games in hand) and nine points back of first place Vancouver, with four games in hand on the Canucks. Edmonton flies to Boston on Monday, with upcoming games against the Bruins, Columbus, Buffalo and these Penguins again next Sunday afternoon.

There should be some points on this trip for an Oilers team that has found its groove again, with four straight games allowing two goals or less.

“Just getting into that rhythm,” said Foegele, who had two assists Sunday. “The next few months is everyday kind of hockey. We’re looking at the standings and we want to finish first in our division and as well for the West. Efforts like that will help us get there.”

Crosby was the first overall pick in 2005, around whom a championship team was constructed. Now it’s McDavid, the No. 1 a decade later in 2015, who seeks the recognition that a Stanley Cup ring brings.

On Sunday night Crosby, who is having a renaissance this season, looked slow on the second game of a back-to-back for the Penguins. He went pointless on a minus-3 night, while McDavid had a goal, an assist and five shots on net.

As awesome as it would be to see those two on the same line on Team Canada at an Olympics, the days of 87 measuring up to 97 head-to-head are few and far between anymore, as McDavid and his team rolls over Crosby and his most every time they meet.

“I don’t think there’s a lot to be said tonight,” began a disappointed Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, whose team blew a 3-1 third-period lead in Calgary the night before, only to lose 4-3 in regulation. “I think we just have to find a way to go home and regroup. We’ll try to get some rest, we’ll fly home and we’ll address tomorrow when it comes.”

Zach Hyman scored goal No. 41 and 42 on the season to stretch his goals streak to nine straight home games (12 goals). Leon Draisaitl had three assists, Brett Kulak added two, and backup Calvin Pickard lost his shutout bid on a goofy bounce with just 7:37 to play, as Evgeni Malkin cashed in.

There was just too much going on for a Pens team that left a little piece of its heart in Calgary, with that embarrassing collapse and an airplane issue that didn’t get them to their Edmonton hotels rooms until 3:30 a.m.

“We had a tough loss (in Calgary), and I don’t know if we did a good enough job of just moving by it,” Crosby said. “You’ve got to find a way — even when it’s one like that — to move by it. We probably didn’t do a good enough job.”

Pickard stopped Jansen Harkins on a penalty shot, the second one Pickard has thwarted this season.

IN THE CREASE — McDavid (1-1-2) stretched his home scoring streak to 25 games (14-45-59 ). That ties Wayne Gretzky for the third longest such streak in Oilers history. Gretzky had 44-49-93 in his skein during the 1981-82 season.

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