Connor McDavid got the best of Jack Eichel and Robin Lehner, and was the sole reason that Edmonton went home with the W. Both of his goals were beauties, first a can’t miss breakaway on the first real play of the game and later a wicked backhand that went 5-hole on Lehner in overtime. The kid is great; there’s a reason he was the 1st pick in the draft. He showed it tonight.
I don’t know how many more starts it will take for the majority to believe it, but I’ll jump the gun: Robin Lehner is a stud. The guy was absolutely unbelievable tonight. He gave up a goal 20 seconds into the game where virtually all the blame can be put on Zach Bogosian. The defenseman couldn’t handle a simple cross ice pass, turned it over, and McDavid buried it, like he should have. Not many goalies make the stop.
A lot of 24-year-old goalies crumble after that. The NHL poster boy puts one by you and an extremely talented, albeit young and raw team, keeps flooding the net with shots. Lehner responded as well as anyone could have wanted. He turned away the next 39 shots, keeping Buffalo in a game they probably had no business being in. A good chunk of Edmonton’s chances were high quality, but the Swedish ‘tender was calm and collected in net.
Lehner was especially good in the shortened overtime period. He stoned Jordan Eberle on a point blank shot off a 2-on-1 early in the extra time. He then came up huge when Buffalo took a too many men penalty and Edmonton went on the man advantage. There’s no reason why Edmonton couldn’t have scored 4 or 5 times tonight, Lehner really held it together.
On the other hand, Cam Talbot was every bit as good Lehner tonight. Buffalo had no shortage of opportunities to get on the board, and he turned them away again and again until midway through the 3rd period. He ended the night with 31 saves and deserving of his 3rd star acknowledgement.
The lone goal from Buffalo was certainly a pretty one. Sam Reinhart came racing down left wing and somehow managed a backhand n0-look pass across the ice that found Cal O’Reilly, who was covered nicely by Eberle. It took an athletic play from the elder O’Reilly to get it on his stick and flip it past Talbot for his 1st goal as a Sabre.
Edmonton isn’t a very good team. Without Ryan O’Reilly and now Jamie McGinn, Buffalo isn’t a good team either. They are young and still gelling, but a team’s improvement is marked by winning games against poorer competition. This was a game they should have come out ready to win, and simply put, they didn’t.
That’s not to say there weren’t a lot of good things to happen tonight, because there were. Most notably, it was Lehner’s game and he has been shining bright lately. If Buffalo can ever get the offensive production and great goaltending to come together, it will be a fun watch. They get a chance to prove themselves against another good young team in Calgary Thursday night in Buffalo.