Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) and Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) compete for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)
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PITTSBURGH -- The first-ever matchup between generational stars Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid did not disappoint -- unless you were an Edmonton Oilers fan, of course -- as the 19-year-old McDavid had three assists in a losing effort as the Pittsburgh Penguins erased a 3-1 deficit and edged the Oilers 4-3 Tuesday night.
Lots to appreciate about this well-played, fast-paced game, but let's first focus on McDavid, who showed little stage fright in playing his first game against Crosby, a player he idolized growing up.
It wasn't just that the two first-overall draft picks, separated by a decade but forever linked by enormous expectations, were sharing the same ice for the first time -- they spent most of the night sharing the same space, too.
For most of the first two periods and into the third, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan matched Crosby's line with McDavid's trio. And for much of the night, it was a strategy that looked as though it might backfire, as McDavid earned assists on two goals by Jordan Eberle and one by Patrick Maroon as the Oilers jumped out to a 3-1 lead early in the second period.
On all three goals, McDavid illustrated just why he has many believing he could win a scoring title in his sophomore season, using blazing speed to open up space in the neutral zone and to create odd-man situations.
The play that was most impressive came late in the first period as McDavid hustled back into the Oilers' zone and knocked the puck loose from a streaking Carl Hagelin, turning the play up ice before feeding Maroon with a nice backhand pass to make it 2-1 Oilers.
McDavid's 17 points in 14 games have him in a tie for the scoring lead.
As for Crosby, Tuesday marks the first game of the season he was held off the score sheet. But to suggest this was an off night for the star center would be to misinterpret what happened at PPG Paints Arena.
It was Crosby who started the play that led to the Penguins' second goal in the second period, directing a shot on net that eventually ended up as a Hagelin marker.
Crosby was also working down low on the winner by Conor Sheary with less than two minutes to go in regulation, although he did not earn a point.
And so Crosby will gladly take the two points in the standings -- the Penguins improve to 9-2-2 and 6-0-1 in the seven games in which Crosby has appeared this season -- even if he personally was denied points.
As for McDavid, who actually made a great play to Eberle for what might have been a tying goal with netminder Cam Talbot on the bench in the waning seconds, he's got his first game against his hero under his belt and won't have to answer the same questions (or at least not as many) when the two teams meet in Edmonton on March 10.
The big question for the Oilers -- who are now 9-4-1 -- and McDavid is what implications that next game may have for a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2006. If McDavid keeps this up, my guess is that game will have meaning far beyond Round 2 of McDavid versus Crosby.