EDMONTON — Connor McDavid admits the highlight-reel goal he scored in his return debut against Columbus Tuesday was eerily similar to the play that cracked his clavicle in the first place.
With the game against the Blue Jackets tied at the midpoint, McDavid took the puck at centre ice, accelerated to jet speed in a few strides, then dipped and dangled through two defenders before deking out goaltender Joonas Korpisalo for a 2-1 Oiler lead.
McDavid quadruple-pumped his fist as the Rexall Place crowd jumped to their feet with a roar.
“I think the last time I went one-on-two, it didn’t end very well for me, so little bit better of a result this time,” McDavid told reporters after the Oilers’ 5-1 win.
As the minutes ticked down the crowd chanted: “Connor! Connor! Connor!”
It was McDavid’s first game since Nov. 3, when he charged toward the net against the Philadelphia Flyers, splitting two defenders.
Only that time all three went down in heap and skidded pell-mell into the end boards. McDavid came up holding his shoulder with what turned out to be a broken collarbone.
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said it was only later on that he noticed the resemblance in the two plays.
“Same type of play where he’s trying to split the D,” said McLellan.
“Shows that he has overcome what happened to him earlier in his career, and he’s able to go out play without any fear, so good for him.”
McDavid added two assists.
It was just the 14th game of his NHL career, but a highly anticipated return. McDavid was drafted first overall by the Oilers in the 2015 draft.
His combination of moves, speed and skill have scouts calling him a generational player on par with Sidney Crosby.
He said there was no problem with the collarbone.
“It felt good. It’s been feeling good for awhile now. Obviously I didn’t know how it would hold up in game action, but I was happy with how it felt,” said McDavid.
He missed 37 games, almost half a season.
Against the Blue Jackets he centred a line between Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot and used his speed to draw a penalty just 26 seconds into the game.
He finished with 16:43 in ice time, down from the 20 minutes a game he was averaging prior to his injury.
He took four shots, won 8-of-14 faceoffs and was plus-1.
He has six goals and 15 points in 14 games.
The Oilers and McDavid now hit the road for four games, beginning Thursday in Ottawa against the Senators.