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Connor McDavid wins Conn Smythe as playoff MVP despite Oilers losing Stanley Cup Final to Panthers

Connor McDavid wins Conn Smythe as playoff MVP despite Oilers losing Stanley Cup Final to Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Connor McDavid won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP on Monday night despite Edmonton's Stanley Cup Final loss to Florida, a nod to one of the greatest postseason performances in NHL history.

McDavid, who was held without a point in Game 7 on Monday night, led all scorers with 42 points, five shy of the record of 47 set by Wayne Gretzky in 1985.

“It’s incredible," teammate Dylan Holloway said before the game. "There’s no shortage of words. He’s just so awesome. He brings it every single day, and when we need him the most that’s when he plays the best. He’s obviously a really special player and a special guy, too.”

After not scoring (but still leading the team with three assists) through the first three games against Florida, McDavid changed the course of the series by doing something no other player in history has done, including Gretzky. He had four points in consecutive games in the final to keep the Oilers from being eliminated.

Panthers forward Nick Cousins said McDavid was “playing on a different level.”

“I didn’t think it was possible for him to elevate his game, but he has,” Cousins said.

McDavid is just the second skater after the Flyers' Reggie Leach in 1976 to win the Conn Smythe on a team that lost in the final. Goaltenders Jean-Sebastien Giguere of Anaheim in 2003, Ron Hextall of Philadelphia in 1987, Glenn Hall of St. Louis in 1968 and Roger Crozier with Detroit in 1966 were also playoff MVPs after backstopping teams that fell just short of hoisting the Cup.

McDavid, the reigning and three time Hart Trophy winner long considered the best hockey player in the world, put on a show in his first trip to the final. His goal and three assists in an 8-1 rout in Game 4 avoided a sweep, and his four points including an empty netter in Game 5 three nights later dragged the series back to Alberta.

Those who know McDavid believe it's the year-round work he has put in throughout his career allowed him to thrive when the spotlight was at its brightest.

“He’s unique in his dedication to his craft," said Hall of Famer Ken Hitchcock, who coached McDavid in 2018-19. "He’s very unique. He’s learned to be relentless, and he enjoys it and he’s very, very serious about his craft, and that becomes contagious when you’re on the team with him.”

Oilers players lauded McDavid not just for leading by example with his play but also off the ice.

“He gives me a ton of confidence no matter what happens in the game, goaltender Stuart Skinner said while sitting next to McDavid, who turned bright red listening. ”Whether I let in five, whether I get a shutout. He’s always in my corner, he’s always patting me on the back and telling me that he believes in me. … I could talk about him for a very long time.”

That talk is justified for a player who led the league in scoring five times during the regular season and accomplished just about everything on an individual basis. What is still missing in the Stanley Cup, which will have to wait at least another year.

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AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL

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