For the first time in their young NHL careers, first overall pick Connor McDavid and second overall pick Jack Eichel faced off. Tonight’s game clearly on the schedule as Edmonton against Buffalo, but the media had pumped the game up as Eichel v. McDavid I. McDavid took no time to remind Sabres fans what could’ve have been.
Things started off fast and furious at the First Niagara Center on Tuesday night, which is something that happens when both teams pretend as if defense were never created.
A mere 22 seconds into the game and McDavid made his presence be known. McDavid did what McDavid does, makes others on the ice look ridiculous. He danced around the defense and benefitted from a poor poke check judgement call by Robin Lehner and the puck went into the net.
McDavid’s 11th goal of the season put Edmonton up 1-0.
The reckless pace would continue throughout the first period, but neither side would be able to get on the board.
Moving over to the second period, defense still found itself to be optional but both sides looked to dig their heels in a little more. As the game grew older, the Sabres were kept in the game by Robin Lehner, who has continued to trend upward lately.
There was a scare for the Buffalo Sabres very, very late in the second period when former Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera put home what looked to be a buzzer-beating goal. 0.4 seconds were on the clock when Sekera’s shot crossed the line.
Only one issue, the play looked offside. The goal was confirmed to have happened before the clock struck zero on the second period, and Dan Bylsma immediately challenged.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 2, 2016
Anton Landers is the guilty party here, much to the Sabres delight. Heading into the third period, the Edmonton Oilers led the Buffalo Sabres, 1-0.
The third period provided us a rare sight, a Buffalo Sabres goal. All of the work done by Sam Reinhart, who showed us tonight that he can process what is happening on the ice as it happens.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) March 2, 2016
Reinhart’s vision gives Cal O’Reilly an easy tap-in for his first goal with the Buffalo Sabres. It goes in the book as O’Reilly’s 14th career goal and 1st of the season. At 9:06 of the third period, Buffalo finally gets on the board and ties the game at 1.
Both teams clamped down defensively as the game progressed towards the end of the third, so an extra frame was necessary to determine a winner.
Buffalo found themselves down a man early in overtime. Instead of folding under pressure, the penalty kill impressed all of us again. The most important penalty killer, Robin Lehner, was also beyond fantastic. More on him soon.
Following the expiration of the penalty, Jack Eichel grabbed the puck and went in to the Sabres’ offensive zone for a scoring chance. Eichel’s shot rebound was grabbed by Edmonton and the play turned around.
Connor McDavid entered the Oilers’ offensive zone down the wing and skated directly at Robin Lehner. McDavid backhanded a puck through Lehner, for the game-winning goal. McDavid’s 12th goal of the season, and 2nd of the game, gave Edmonton a 2-1 victory.
With this loss, the Buffalo Sabres fall to 25-31-8 with 58 points on the season.
Time for some quick hits..
- Eichel v. McDavid I
Before tonight’s game, both Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid downplayed the reality that tonight was the first of many matchups in what will become a career-long rivalry. Even if the rivalry is completely manufactured, this is a thing that Sabres and Oilers fans will hear about for years to come.
“The hype is produced,” Dan Bylsma told the media this morning. I’m curious to see how Jack does, how Connor does. I don’t think there’s a head-to-head matchup that’s going on tonight, per say.”
Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid echoed the same sentiment. “We’re playing the Oilers tonight, we’re not playing Connor McDavid,” said Eichel. “It’s not about just me or him; it’s about the game and two teams that both needs wins.”
As for the game, look above. I’m not rehashing that one.
- Lehner the real.
With this team, wins and losses are irrelevant. Robin Lehner continues to show us that he might just be able to be the number one goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres and that is a very big victory.
Lehner continues to make great saves on a nightly basis, with tonight’s game being no different.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) March 2, 2016
Ho-hum, another 39 save night for Lehner. Give this man some offense, and watch him lead this team to fun and exciting things.
- McCabe Injured.
Jake McCabe threw a hit on Nail Yakupov this evening, but was the one who suffered the most damage. It appeared as if McCabe and Yakupov knocked heads.
McCabe went down, and struggled to a knee. After being helped to the locker room, McCabe did not return.
Following the game, Dan Bylsma did not have an update on McCabe, but clearly sounded worried about the potential injury.
Keep an eye on this developing story.
- Hockey is making me mad.
Hockey, I love you. It’s not me, it’s you. You’re making me very mad lately.