The extraordinary has become ordinary for Connor McDavid. On Wednesday night, the Oilers' 20-year-old captain began his third NHL season by scoring three goals. It is the first opening-game hat trick since the team entered the league in 1979.

The game's most dominant player a year ago started out where he left off. He dismantled the Calgary Flames entirely on his own. Edmonton won, 3-0, but it could have been worse.

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McDavid misfired on a break-away 30 seconds into the game, a shot misdirected at the last second by Mike Smith. The Oilers bombarded Calgary's new goalie with 45 shots. They outshot the Flames 46-26, and had a 16-5 advantage in the third period.

By then, the sell-out crowd at Rogers Place was chanting "MVP" at the end of McDavid's shifts.

Even by McDavid's standards, it was a remarkable night. It was the first time he has had a hat trick in an opening game at any level. It was also the second of his career.

"It is a good way to start, I guess," he said, as if it was nothing special. "It feels good tonight, but we still have a long way to go."

People are talking about the Oilers. The difference now is that they are not snickering.

Everyone agrees they are a playoff-calibre team, and some expect much more. A Las Vegas oddsmaker on Wednesday made the Oilers co-favourites with the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup.

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That is what having the game's best player and making a postseason run for the first time in a decade does.

"There are expectations for us to win," Mark Letestu, the scrappy centre who flanks McDavid on power plays, said. "Two years ago, it was almost to the point where if we won games it was by accident.

"We have quite a bit more pride now."

Letetsu scored a career-high 16 goals last season and tied McDavid for the team lead with six game-winners.

He is an example of a guy whose productivity and expectations have been buoyed by having the NHL's scoring champion and most valuable player as a teammate.

Seven months will expire between Wednesday night's opening game and the commencement of the playoffs. But last night, as the fans poured out of Edmonton's downtown arena, they chanted, "We want the Cup."

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It is to the point now where Todd McLellan, the Oilers' coach, is at a loss for words when he is asked about his superstar centre. He watches from the bench and marvels like everyone else.

"It is just what he does," McLellan said after watching McDavid blast past Flames defenceman. Most of the night, he skated unabated. At times, guys chasing him looked like they were pulling wagons.

After several close chances, he scored his first goal by slapping in a rebound of a shot by Leon Draisaitl with 8:59 left in the first period. His other two goals both came in the third. One was an unassisted end-to-end rush where he left three Flames grasping at air. The last was an empty-netter in the final minute. Milan Lucic created the chance by freeing the puck with a crushing hit in Calgary's end along the boards. Draisaitl then picked it up and passed backhanded to McDavid in front of the net.

"We can't expect him to score three goals every night, but the sky is the limit for him," Cam Talbot, the Edmonton goalie, said. He made 26 saves.

The Oilers outshot the Flames, and outhit them, too. They even had an advantage in face-offs, which has been one of their weaknesses, and blocked one more shot. Kris Russell, the NHL's best at it, had seven on his own.

The Flames created few good chances, but got splendid goalkeeping from Smith. At one point, his helmet flew off after he was struck in the face by a thundering slap shot by Oscar Klefbom.

"He is probably going to have a little headache tomorrow," Klefbom said.

Watching from the other end of the ice, Talbot cringed.

"I don't know how he got up from that," the Edmonton goalie said. "I give him a lot of credit for finishing the game."

Instead of starting the year with false hope, there is swagger in Edmonton. There is a different feeling in the autumn air, a confidence that was unsustainable beyond a few games or weeks in past years. The team is not mired in the mediocrity that gripped them during seven straight losing years.

Fans bathed in orange arrived at Rogers Place with their faces painted on Wednesday night. They cheered Joey Moss when the team's beloved dressing-room attendant was shown on the scoreboard screen, and roared when the team skated onto the ice.

McDavid was streaking down the ice on a breakaway before some spectators had even settled into their seats.

When he scored his first goal of the season, the building erupted.

McDavid scored 100 points last year, with 23 in the last 13 games of the regular season. He extended that streak to 14 in a row on opening night.

The Oilers' 47 victories last year were their team's since 1986-87, when Wayne Gretzky led them to their Stanley Cup.

Barely a word has been spoken of accomplishing such a feat here in many years, but it suddenly seems not so far-fetched. During the offseason, the Oilers signed McDavid and Draisaitl to eight-year contracts. The latter, who turned 22 last week, had 88 points last season and two assists against the Oilers.

"I am as excited as the fans are to finally get going," Milan Lucic, the Oilers veteran left wing and alternate captain, said. "There are expectations on our side."

Before the game, acrobats performed on rings that hung high over the ice. Applause rained down when Edmonton's police chief, Rod Knecht, was introduced. Then Mike Chernyk, the constable who was run over and stabbed while attacked on traffic duty Saturday night, received a thunderous ovation. He fought for his life, protecting his revolver with one hand while blocking attempts to stab him with the other. He had a knife wound on the left side of his face as he stood, singing O Canada.

The Oilers recognized the three Albertans who died in a barrage of bullets in Las Vegas, too.

"I hope that tonight gives people a two- or three-hour break and allows them to forget all the hate in the world," Letestu said. "I hope this brings a little solace and a little peace."

In Edmonton last night, Connor McDavid brought it all on his own.