The highly-anticipated matchup between the first two picks of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft was a good one, but ultimately, it was Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers that picked up the victory over Jack Eichel’s Buffalo Sabres, defeating the Sabres by a score of 2-1 in overtime.
Just 22 seconds into the first period, McDavid gave the Oilers the lead with his 11th goal of the season. McDavid stripped the puck from Zach Bogosian in the Sabres defensive zone before receiving a beautiful pass from Oilers’ winger Jordan Eberle, sliding the puck past an outstretched Robin Lehner to give the Oilers the lead before the majority of fans got to their seats.
Like the last 19 minutes of the first, the second period would go scoreless. There was a scare for the Sabres with less than a minute remaining in the period, when Adam Cracknell’s shot from the blue line went off of Robin Lehner’s pad and directly to former Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera, who shot the puck into the empty net with 0.3 seconds remaining in the second. After further review, it was determined that Edmonton center Anton Lander was offsides, and the goal was disallowed, keeping the Edmonton lead at one.
Roughly ten minutes into the third, Cal O’Reilly would score his first goal as a Buffalo Sabre off of a beautiful no-look pass from a spinning Sam Reinhart. O’Reilly was able to backhand the puck past Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot, tying the game at one apiece with his first goal in the NHL since 2011.
Fans in attendance would see bonus hockey as regulation ended with the score tied at one. The Sabres went on the penalty kill shortly into the overtime period, following a too many men on the ice penalty. Buffalo killed off the penalty, and Jack Eichel had a fantastic scoring opportunity shortly after the penalty expired. Eichel failed to put the puck in the back of the net, allowing Connor McDavid to take the puck to the other end of the ice and score the overtime winner, giving the Oilers the 2-1 win.
The biggest story coming into this game was the fact that it was the first time that Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel would meet in the NHL, and although McDavid finished the game with two goals, the two rookie’s performances were relatively even. McDavid and Eichel finished the game with a similar amount of ice time, the same number of shots on goal, and Eichel finished the game with a higher face off percentage than McDavid. Unfortunately, the #1 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft was able to capitalize on his opportunities, giving Edmonton the win in the process.
Robin Lehner had a strong outing in the losing effort, stopping 39 out of Edmonton’s 41 shots. Lehner kept the Sabres in the game throughout, but unfortunately, the Sabres offense was unable to reward his performance. Lehner posted .951 save percentage, and was named the second star of the game.
Buffalo’s loss against the Oilers is their fourth loss in their past five games, a stretch in which they have only scored nine goals. The next time the Sabres take the ice will be Thursday evening at the First Niagara Center when they take on the Calgary Flames for the second time this season. The Sabres need to get back on track, and Calgary may be the team to do it against, as they have lost five consecutive games.