The Edmonton Oilers appear to belong.
After a wild and unpredictable back-and-forth in Calgary, it was one-way traffic in Game 3 for the Edmonton Oilers, who hammered the Flames 4-1 to take a 2-1 series lead over their provincial rivals in their Western Conference semifinal series and the Battle of Alberta.
Evander Kane scored a natural hat trick in six minutes in the second period to blow the game wide open, but what separated the Albertan outfits in Game 3 was the superstar play — or more specifically the superstar distribution — from the Oilers' two superstar players.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combined to register all seven assists recorded by the Oilers, setting up the simplest of finishes for their linemates with outstanding skill, smarts, and execution.
Kane didn't even have to switch up the move to record his postseason-leading 10th goal after McDavid's final trick helped the hats onto the ice.
Throw the hats for Evander Kane 🎩🎩🎩 pic.twitter.com/XN1XVmJiYe
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) May 23, 2022
In the nets, meanwhile, Mike Smith was far less busy than Jacob Markstrom, but outshone his counterpart with ease, making 32 saves for the victory. Smith did briefly exit the game to enter concussion protocol in the final period when he was run into the end boards by Flames enforcer Milan Lucic while playing the puck behind his net.
Oliver Kylington scored the Flames' only goal of the game shortly after Smith returned to a standing ovation in a game Edmonton controlled from the outset.
This was, in some ways, the sort of night hockey fans have been waiting for since McDavid entered the league seven seasons ago.
No. 97 has, of course, been dominant since the postseason began, and really has emerged as the single-biggest story of the playoffs so far, accumulating the fourth-most points through 10 games in Stanley Cup Playoffs history.
McDavid's 23 points in 10 games so far would have led the playoffs in scoring in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) May 23, 2022
But as it is with McDavid and the Oilers, there is always this feeling that it's fleeting. It felt that way when the Oilers needed a Herculean effort from McDavid to narrowly survive the L.A. Kings in Round 1. It felt that way again when the Flames outclassed Edmonton in Game 1 after proving themselves as the better team over the balance of the regular season.
But after this game, and now in turn assessing this run, it feels less about one superstar dragging his team as far as he humanly can.
There are some things McDavid will be constantly working to overcome internally, but it seems more connected, more potentially prosperous now in Edmonton.
McDavid couldn't alone post a 21-shot opening period.
McDavid can't alone kill four Flames power plays.
McDavid didn't always have a linemate that can finish in tight like Kane can.
Beneath the gaudy totals for McDavid, and the fact that only two players in history — Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux — have scored more points in 10 games to start a postseason, the Oilers are quietly doing some very good things. Some winning things.
Which, in turn, allows McDavid to do his thing.
On a night where McDavid's friend, Canadian men's soccer star Alphonso Davies, was in the building, McDavid demonstrated some brilliant footwork of his own before setting up Kane's second of the night.
It was a Draisaitl No. 29 that Davies had on his back at Rogers Place — presumably as a nod to their German ties.
While clearly labouring through an injury, Draisaitl has simplified his approach and continues to help McDavid elevate, and in turn stay productive himself.
Draisaitl acted as the connective tissue on Zach Hyman's icebreaker, and his sixth of the postseason.
Zach Hyman breaks the deadlock in the Battle of Alberta: Part III ⛽️pic.twitter.com/EflJmRSCU4
— Caesars Sportsbook (@CaesarsSports) May 23, 2022
McDavid and Draisaitl finished with seven points, six shots, and a 4-0 on-ice goal differential.
They were the difference in the game, and have been so far in the series.
And the separation is widening, because lately McDavid and Draisaitl aren't working to make up ground. They are building on all the other things working in Edmonton.
At the forefront of that is Smith, who has allowed only two goals on 61 shots in the last five periods as the Oilers have seized control of the matchup.
Control can become a stranglehold in Game 4 on Tuesday night in Edmonton.
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