Connor McDavid returns to action with highlight goal for fun-to-watch Oilers

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CrosbySidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Crosby netted a natural hat trick -- including two power-play goals -- and added an assist in the Pens' 6-5 win against the Ottawa Senators. He now has 14 points in his past eight games and has scored in eight consecutive home contests.

CampbellGregory Campbell, Columbus Blue Jackets
Campbell had a tough night in a 5-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, finishing minus-3 and losing six of 10 faceoffs. He has not recorded a point since Dec. 4.

What is the biggest takeaway from Tuesday's 12-game slate?

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: I count no fewer than 10 statement games played Tuesday night in the NHL. That's life in the post-All Star world, a function of the kind of parity that means that only a few teams are really cooked in terms of the playoffs. My guess is we're going to see more separation in the weeks leading to the trade deadline as teams such as the Arizona Coyotes (thrashed by the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday), Winnipeg Jets (defeated by the Dallas Stars) and Montreal Canadiens (beaten by the Philadelphia Flyers; will they ever win again?) fall further and further behind. For me, the most curious outcome Tuesday was the Minnesota Wild's 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders, who chose to go with AHL netminder Jean-Francois Berube in goal. He made 40 stops for the win, and the slumping Wild are outside the playoff bubble looking in. So, when considering the cooked or soon-to-be-cooked category, what conclusions did you draw from Tuesday's dramatic schedule?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: You can have all your statement games, Scotty, but there was really only one moment in the NHL Tuesday night. Welcome back, Connor McDavid, and are you kidding me? The kid misses three months with a broken collarbone and then scores a goal on which he undresses the entire Blue Jackets team by himself? My goodness. You can imagine what the season would have been like had McDavid not suffered a broken collarbone in a bizarre, awkward collision back on Nov. 3. Calder Trophy race? Um, there would not have been a race. I'm prepared to say McDavid would have the Calder in his back pocket while trying to chase down Patrick Kane for the scoring lead, had he not been injured. Yes, I said it. He's that good.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: Yeah, I'm with Pierre. Every game last night seemed to have playoff implications, but the one I refused to stop watching was between two teams at the bottom of the standings in Edmonton and Columbus. I'm not sure I'll miss another Oilers game all season. That goal by McDavid was unbelievable and the Oilers are an absolute blast to watch with him, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. There were no signs of rust. None. In fact, it was the opposite -- McDavid came in with fresh legs and looked faster than anyone on the ice. We'll have to get used to that. Edmonton dug itself a deep hole in the standings, but at the very least it can establish during the remainder of the season how it wants to play and compete when its best player is back. It won't be long until he's the league's best, too.

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: You guys know how I feel when it comes to McDavid and the Buffalo Sabres' Jack Eichel. After they were drafted Nos. 1 and 2 overall, respectively, in last June's draft, I was convinced Eichel would have a better rookie season because he played against men at the collegiate level while McDavid was dominating younger competition in junior hockey, and I felt Eichel's transition would be a little smoother. It's terrible on several levels that McDavid missed the majority of this season, and it's too bad our fun debate between him and Eichel went kaput. Watching McDavid's return Tuesday night and that goal that he scored was unbelievable. I'm with you, Craig. I can't wait to watch him for the rest of the season. And I definitely I can't wait for March 1, when the Sabres host the Oilers.

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