EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Connor McDavid scored a spectacular winner late in the third period, beating two defenders on a breathtaking rush up ice, and the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 in a physical matchup Monday night.
Jesse Puljujarvi, with a goal and an assist, Ethan Bear and Devin Shore also scored for Edmonton, while Mike Smith made 22 saves. McDavid also had two assists in a three-point game for the Oilers, who trailed 1-0 with less than 10 minutes to play.
“He’s probably the best player in the world right now,” Canadiens interim coach Dominique Ducharme said. “He made the difference.”
Eric Staal scored for Montreal, which got 25 saves from Jake Allen after he replaced Carey Price to start the second period. Price, who stopped seven shots in the opening 20 minutes, didn’t come out after the intermission.
The Oilers stretched their home winning streak to eight games, and improved to 2-3-1 against Montreal in 2021.
“That’s a team that’s had our number for whatever reason this year,” McDavid said. “It’s a big win for our group.”
The Canadiens, meanwhile, fell to 2-6-0 over their past eight games without injured winger Brendan Gallagher (broken thumb).
The Oilers moved within one point of Winnipeg for second place in the North Division with a game in hand.
“It was a tight, playoff-style game,” Edmonton coach Dave Tippett said. “I liked the way we stayed with it and got the win.”
Montreal tried to take the body against the Oilers — especially early — but Edmonton didn’t back down in a game that featured 67 hits.
“They’re a big team,” McDavid said. “We’re not afraid to play that type of way. If you want to play physical, we can play physical.”
Coming off Saturday’s 4-0 home loss to Ottawa, the Canadiens opened a five-game road trip that will see them back at Rogers Place on Wednesday before three crucial outings in Calgary against the Flames, who are chasing Montreal for the division’s fourth and final playoff spot.
Edmonton tied the game 1-all at 10:49 of the third on Bear’s one-timer off McDavid’s pass after some great pressure in the offensive zone for his first goal of the season.
McDavid pushed his team ahead with 4:49 left when he collected the puck at Edmonton’s blue line, split Montreal’s defense with a burst of speed and fired short side on Allen.
“I’m never really afraid to take on two defenders,” McDavid said. “It can get me into trouble sometimes.”
Puljujarvi made it 3-1 with 2:23 left on a breakaway before Shore iced it into an empty net.
Montreal opened the scoring at 6:46 of the second when Corey Perry threw a pass in front that hit Staal’s right skate and went past Smith for his fifth, and second since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in late March.
The 36-year-old’s only other goal with Montreal came in overtime against Edmonton in his Canadiens debut April 5.
Edmonton’s best chance of the period came right after an Oilers penalty kill, but McDavid saw the puck roll off his stick on a 2-on-0 off a terrific long-distance aerial pass from Smith.
Montreal killed off an Oilers power play to start the third before Alex Chiasson chipped a shot over the net from in tight after Allen made the initial save.
The Canadiens backup then stood his ground on Josh Archibald’s diving chance before Bear tied it with his first goal in 49 games.
“That’s the kind of hockey we’re going to have down the stretch,” Bear said. “Everyone’s trying to push for the playoffs.
“We’ve had some tough losses this year. It’s tested our character. We’re maturing as a group.”
Both teams came out hitting in a spirited first period, including Montreal defenseman Alexander Romanov sending Jujhar Khaira to the Edmonton locker room following a huge mid-ice collision.
The Oilers appeared to take the lead at 12:01 when McDavid snapped what would have been his first goal against the Canadiens in 2021, but Montreal challenged for goaltender interference on Price.
Smith stopped Staal on a 2-on-1 rush with the blocker before Montreal’s power play — 2 for 31 over its past nine games coming in — got a chance later in the period, but Jesperi Kotkaniemi fired over Smith’s net.
Edmonton then got a man advantage after Phillip Danault took a healthy run at McDavid, with Leon Draisaitl forcing a good save out of Price, who entered 3-0-0 with .960 save percentage against the Oilers this season, to keep things even through 20 minutes.
Allen took over to start the second.
“It’s frustrating,” said Ducharme, whose team has scored just 18 times over its last 10 games. “But at the same time, we did a lot of good things.”
NOTES: Following the conclusion of this two-game set Wednesday, the Oilers and Canadiens will play twice more in the regular season — May 10 and 12 in Montreal. … Tippett said before the game Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (upper-body injury) is expected to practice with the team Tuesday. The center was hurt April 7 in Ottawa.
The teams meet again Wednesday night in Edmonton.
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