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Struggling Ducks fall to Connor McDavid, Oilers

ANAHEIM  – Ducks icon Teemu Selanne felt moved to tweet after yet another dazzling Connor McDavid goal on Wednesday night:

“Ladies and gentlemen Connor McDavid show in Anaheim. Wow … never seen (a) player like this.”

It was more of a reaffirmation than a verdict from the Hall of Famer.

McDavid had a goal and added an assist in the first period to lead the Edmonton Oilers, who went on to beat the Ducks, 6-2, at Honda Center. The assist was a no-look pass, setting up rookie Dylan Holloway and the goal was even more eye-popping, a spin move leaving Trevor Zegras in the dust and McDavid finishing it off with a backhander, putting the Oilers ahead 3-1 at 10:23. It was McDavid’s league-leading 35th goal of the season.

The Oilers led 4-1 after one period and extended their lead to 6-1 after two. Klim Kostin scored twice, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a goal and an assist and defenseman Evan Bouchard added two assists.

Ducks backup goalie Anthony Stolarz replaced starter John Gibson for the third period, a frequent move by the Ducks. Gibson faced 37 shots and allowed six goals. Stolarz has come in to relieve Gibson seven times this season. The Oilers finished with 53 shots on goal.

Often, the message behind the goaltending switch does seem to get through.

“It shouldn’t take that. It shouldn’t take a big meeting in between periods to get you going in this league,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “You’ve got to be a self-starter. And you have to be competitive. Working hard is not enough. You have to compete.

“And other times, you have to do what’s required to win battles and win games. We’re going to have to really focus on that, especially coming out of this game because for a large part of the game it wasn’t there.”

The Ducks (12-26-4) opened the second half of the season in much the same way they closed the first half against the top-ranked Boston Bruins – losing a lopsided game. They’ve been outscored a combined 13-3 in the past two games.

Forward Sam Carrick (third of the season) and defenseman Simon Benoit scored for the Ducks in the first period and third period, respectively. It was Benoit’s first goal with the Ducks this season and the second in his 97-game NHL career.

“It’s always fun to get your first goal, but in a game like that you can’t really appreciate it,” Benoit said. “We have to figure out a way to play better and just get back to work tomorrow….I think we just have to find consistency in our game.

“We know we can beat those good teams and we just have to be on our A game every time we play those teams. Tonight was just not the night.”

Max Comtois added two assists, which was his first multi-point game this season and could be a building block for him in the second half. He has seven points (five goals, two assists) in 31 games this season.

“He played a good game,” Eakins said. “He was responsible. He was making plays. It’s certainly a baby step in the right direction, but certainly something that if he sticks with it, he can snowball it.”

Also, it was the first game back for Ducks forward Max Jones, who had been out of the lineup since he tweaked his back in the pregame warmup in Toronto on Dec. 13.

“It’s good to be back. I wish it was under a different circumstance and game, but it’s good to be back,” Jones said

He was a little sore at the start, but added: “Once you get your heartbeat going, the brain just takes over, so it was pretty good. I got a little bit of conditioning to do.”

The Oilers went 1 for 3 on the power play with Leon Draisaitl putting the Oilers ahead 6-1 late in the second period, just five seconds into the man advantage with a between-the-legs goal, redirecting a pass from Bouchard. Edmonton went 0 for 6 on the man advantage against the Kings in their last game and it was almost a foregone conclusion that it wouldn’t happen again with the league’s top-rated power play.

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