Oilers' Malone, who always puts others first, gets own chance in spotlight

Connor McDavid scored the overtime winner as the Edmonton Oilers beat the Washington Capitals 4-3.

EDMONTON  — This is the story of a walk-in Hall of Famer scoring the goal that put him into third place in the all-time scoring list… 

No, wait. 

This is the tale of Connor McDavid showing us why is the best hockey player on Earth, going against all instincts to rifle home the game-winner in OT… 

Hold on, folks. We’re being told that this is the story of… Brad Malone? A journeyman minor leaguer who outscored both Ovechkin and McDavid (in regulation) — including his first NHL goal since Dec. 3, 2015 — as the Oilers beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime. 


“I don’t think it has really sunk in yet, to be honest,” Malone, 32, said after the 4-3 OT win. “It feels pretty awesome.” 

When the Capitals scored at 19:58 of the third period to force overtime, the people on press row were less concerned with the outcome than the fact that an Oilers loss would mitigate one of those stories that just doesn’t come around much anymore. And of course, Malone gets that. 

He’s played just over 200 NHL games, but almost 500 in the minor leagues. He’s been around long enough to know that feel good stories require the two points for a thorough telling. 

“It is tough to have an individual game like that and feel good about yourself when you don’t get the two points,” he said. “I know that is kind of the cliché thing, but in all honesty you don’t want to be that teammate in the room.” 

Frankly, if Malone weren’t in the very top echelon among quality teammates, he wouldn’t be here. Or anywhere, likely, at this age. 

Malone is that guy an NHL team places strategically in the minors to tutor their prospects on all the elements of being a pro. His job really isn’t to be an NHL player. It’s about helping others — like a young Kailer Yamamoto, for instance — become NHL players. 

The Oilers were going to call Malone up earlier this season when injuries struck, but he caught COVID-19 and missed his chance. They had to sign him to an NHL deal to get him to Edmonton, a contract that was announced the day the Oilers made his Bakersfield coach, Jay Woodcroft, their newest NHL head man. 

That, as much as anything, breathed fresh life into those old minor league sails. 

“We had a little team meeting (in Bakersfield) after Woody got called up, and I said, ‘This is the kind of opportunity that every guy in the American League wants, to have a guy who has seen you every day when the camera is not on — whether it is in practice, or on the bus or whatever,” Malone said. “He has a really good understanding of who we all are from down there. Guys should be excited about that opportunity with him (in Edmonton).” 

That’s what you call leadership, right? Pumping everyone else up about how this might be their big chance? 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the end of that tale. 

As it turned out, the guy who should have been the most excited about Woodcroft’s promotion was the person giving that speech. 

“I have a comfort level with Brad Malone. He plays the game hard and he navigates his way around the rink in the right fashion,” observed Woodcroft. “When unusual suspects find a way to contribute to five-on-five offence, it fires the rest of the group up. Everyone’s super happy.” 

Malone took a pass from behind the net courtesy of Zack Kassian and quickly deposited it behind Ilya Samsonov. It was the kind of goal that, if a true goal scorer like Ovechkin scored it, we’d gush over it. 

When the Brad Malone’s of the world score one, it’s more like, “Nice shot. But who made that pass?” 

“I think most of his goals would be of the blue collar variety,” said Woodcroft. “But I’ve seen him score some nice ones over the years. So I’m happy to see him get it for us.” 

McDavid buried the OT winner on a two-on-one with Leon Draisaitl, an occasion made possible when Ovechkin was let off the hook for water skiing behind Zach Hyman, who had an empty net goal in his sights in the final minute of play. That kept the game alive for T.J. Oshie to tie it up with 1.8 seconds left in the third. 

“I would say there could’ve been a penalty,” McDavid said, eyebrows raised. “That was a hook, for sure, but the refs missed it and that’s the way it goes. We found a way to get the two points, which is all that really matters.” 

On a night when Nicklas Backstrom notched career point No. 1,000, Ovechkin was denied goal No. 767 to pass Jaromir Jagr and move into sole possession of third place on the all-time list. 

Samsonov gave his team every chance to win, but in the end could not hold back one of the top two-on-one duos in the game today. McDavid was thinking pass until the very end, then simply wired a low shot past a helpless Samsonov from about 10 feet out for the game winner.

"You know me, I'm trying to get (Draisaitl) that puck,” McDavid said. “You always want to get Leo the puck in those types of situations.”

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