Connor McDavid has goal, 2 assists and Oilers cruise past Sidney Crosby and Pens 4-0

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Connor McDavid versus Sidney Crosby used to make the hockey world come to a standstill and watch.

Not so much these days.

Twice in eight days two of the game's biggest stars met. And twice in eight days McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers handled Crosby and the reeling Penguins, this time in a clinical 4-0 victory Sunday.

McDavid scored his 24th goal of the season just over a minute in and added two assists. Darnell Nurse scored twice in the third period to break it open and Calvin Pickard turned aside all 41 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season as the Oilers ended a four-game eastern road trip on a high note after losses to Columbus and Buffalo.

“We don’t love the two losses there, we’ve played a lot of hockey lately,” McDavid said. “That’s no excuse, obviously. But six games in nine days with travel coast to coast, it’s been a grind here. So we’ll take the two points here.”

Mattias Ekholm had a goal and an assist for Edmonton, which won its sixth straight meeting against the struggling Penguins.

A day after having his 13-game point streak ended in a loss to Buffalo, McDavid had his 118th game with three or more points, third most in Edmonton history behind Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.

Pickard left the game briefly near the end of the second period after Pittsburgh forward Bryan Rust ran into him at the goal mouth. The goaltender returned at the start of the third to finish off his sixth career shutout.

“Just a rock back there,” McDavid said of Pickard. "He’s been so good for a while there. I know he was frustrated after the Columbus game, but I thought we let him down in front of him. Came out and just played solid for us today.”

Tristan Jarry stopped 38 shots for Pittsburgh. The Penguins have lost six of their past seven, getting outscored 30-10 in the process.

“Nobody is happy with what’s going on, how things have been going,” said Rust, who skated more than 19 minutes in his return from an upper-body injury that sidelined him for seven games. “I think it doesn’t matter how hard you may think it is, I think you’ve just got to find a way to make that confidence for yourself and I think you’ve got to push it a little 2, 3, 4 extra percent.”

The Oilers began their last extended road trip of the season with a taut overtime victory over Boston in a potential Stanley Cup Final preview but followed it up with consecutive losses to Eastern Conference also-rans Columbus and Buffalo, the latter a shootout setback on Saturday in which they let an early two-goal lead get away.

Not this time. Not against a team in the middle of an uncharacteristic freefall out of the playoff picture, a swoon that began in earnest with a 6-1 setback in Edmonton last weekend.

McDavid gave Edmonton the lead just 1:08 in when Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang tried an ill-advised cross-ice pass that McDavid easily picked off at the top of the Pittsburgh zone. McDavid cruised down the slot and beat Jarry with a wrist shot to put the Oilers in front.

Ekholm doubled Edmonton's advantage later in the period on a one-timer from just above the right circle that appeared to deflect off Pittsburgh defenseman John Ludvig's leg and into the net.

Unlike their previous handful of meetings with the Penguins, however, the Oilers did not pull away. Jarry, who has had trouble against Edmonton in his career, kept Pittsburgh in the mix with a series of deft stops.

Yet the Penguins, likely on their way to missing the playoffs for a second straight season after a run of 16 consecutive postseason berths, were unable to figure out Pickard.

Rust's return and a second-period fight instigated by Ludvig after teammate Erik Karlsson took a high stick failed to produce a jolt the Penguins so desperately need, particularly against the NHL's elite, a club in which they are no longer a member.

“It’d be nice to see a lot more pushback,” Ludvig said. "We know we need to start bringing that. We know we can’t get caught in bad momentum streaks here. So not necessarily fighting, but we’ve definitely got to start spiking our game here and figure it out.”

UP NEXT

Oilers: Begin a four-game homestand on Wednesday when Washington visits.

Penguins: Travel to Ottawa on Tuesday.

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