EDMONTON – Star players have a unique ability to magnify another team’s errors, even if they are miniscule. Connor McDavid is no different.
The league’s leading scorer set up the game-tying goal in the first period on Thursday night against the Sharks, and scored a stunning shorthanded goal later on in the opening frame. Edmonton never trailed after taking that 2-1 edge, going on to a 3-2 win and moving past the Sharks into second place in the Pacific Division.
The Sharks were complicit in both of McDavid’s first period highlights. The first came on a bad line change and a worse sort-out in the defensive zone by Joe Thornton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, while the second featured another slow change and a puzzlingly stationary Patrick Marleau, who may need to be treated for windburn after having McDavid whoosh past him while the Sharks were on a power play.
McDavid set up Patrick Maroon to tie the game at 1-1 midway through the first, and seven minutes later he finished off his first career shorthanded goal by freezing Martin Jones on what is likely the NHL’s top highlight of the night.
“Obviously you don’t need to give them a lot of space for McDavid to create something,” said Jannik Hansen. “He did that today, and I think he turned the game around a little bit in the first period there.”
Pete DeBoer said: “We made a few mistakes and they're opportunistic, especially obviously McDavid. A couple poor line changes in the first, and [if] he gets any kind of room at all and you make a mistake when he's on the ice, it's got a good chance it'll end up in the back of the net and it did.”
Regardless of the loss, and watching the Oilers leapfrog them in the standings, the Sharks’ weren’t all that displeased with how the night unfolded. They got the start they wanted, and regrouped to start the second period after falling behind before the first intermission thanks to McDavid. They outshot the Oilers for the game, 40-22.
Hansen staked the Sharks an early 1-0 lead for the second straight game.
“Very good to begin with,” Hansen said of the Sharks’ first period. “I thought we had a lot of jump, created a lot of chances. We got a goal.”
Joe Pavelski said: “We got the start we wanted. Played a great  minutes.”
They reestablished the forecheck and cycle game in the second period, but couldn’t find a way to beat Cam Talbot until the third period on a magnificent redirection by Pavelski. By then, Maroon had given the Oilers a two-goal cushion on a redirection of his own, though, so the Sharks ended up a goal short.
The Sharks are in a strange position in that they can probably be somewhat pleased that they played better for a second straight game after six losses in a row, the final two of which were ugly.
At the same time, they keep falling in the standings. Playing well without getting results in the playoffs, which are right around the corner, results in late-April tee times.
“You always debate that. Do you rather play like crap and win, or play good and lose?” Hansen said. “We are obviously getting closer to the playoffs here, we need to have our game in the right spot. Last two games were a whole lot better than the previous six.
“That being said, obviously we’d like to win the games, as well. Feel like you’re winning going into the playoffs on a positive note.”
Losing seven of eight overall isn’t positive. There are five more games to try and find those encouraging feelings that haven’t been there lately.