EDMONTON, Alberta (AP)Connor McDavid scored twice to close in on the NHL lead and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Thursday night to move into a tie with Toronto for the North Division lead.
McDavid has 20 goals – a goal behind Toronto’s Auston Matthews – and leads the league in points with 58 and assists with 38.
”It’s kind of a playoff mentality already,” McDavid said. ”I think it’ll continue that way throughout. Everyone’s kind of in the race. A couple of off nights and it tightens up really quick. So you need to be on your game each and every night.”
Tyson Barrie assisted on both goals, and Mikko Koskinen made 24 saves to help the Oilers improve to 20-13-0.
Mathieu Perrault scored for the Jets, and Laurent Brossoit made 19 saves. They are two points behind the Oilers and Maple Leafs in the all-Canadian North at 18-10-2.
The teams will complete the series Saturday night.
McDavid opened the scoring at 3:53 of the second period, coming off the bench, picking up the puck along the boards and riffling a shot of the cross bar and in.
Perrault tied it on a tip-in with 7:17 left in the period, and McDavid struck again 38 seconds later when he snapped a shot past Brossoit.
”(McDavid’s) the most explosive player in our league for a reason. And you saw that tonight,” said Jets center Mark Schiefele. ”You give him a little bit of space and he’s going to make you pay and he’s going to make the teammates around him better. So it’s something you always have to be aware of when you’re playing against him.”
The key to coming away with a win in such a tight contest is to stick with it, Oilers coach Dave Tippett said.
”You try to give up as little as you can,” Tippett said. ”And fatigue becomes a factor, but you try to muscle through as best as you can. And when you get a lead, you just try to muscle it through and get it to the end. And that’s what we did.”
The teams were coming off victories Wednesday night, with the Oilers winning 7-3 at Calgary and the Jets beating Montreal 4-3 in overtime in Winnipeg.
”They were one goal better than we were tonight and I think that’s about all you can say about the game,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. ”We cracked a couple of posts, they had some good chances. It was hard fought, I think well played but not smoothly played.”
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