Connor McDavid (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
Connor McDavid had his first game against Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday, and the Oilers rookie got the best of his 2015 draft counterpart. McDavid opened the scoring and ended the game in overtime, and both goals were fantastic.
Connor McDavid wouldn’t admit it, but anyone tuning into Tuesday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres was without question watching for the first matchup between McDavid and Jack Eichel, the draft’s first and second overall selections.
Eichel had a good showing, but it was McDavid who had the more memorable contest. And it didn’t take long for him to make his impact in the first duel between the two top picks from this past season’s draft. Less than 30 seconds into the contest, McDavid capitalized on a turnover in the Sabres’ zone, went in alone on Buffalo netminder Robin Lehner and used a quick move to bury his 11th goal of the season:
For nearly the next two and a half periods, McDavid’s early tally was the game’s only goal. The next marker didn’t come until the nine-minute mark of the third frame, when Cal O’Reilly netted the game-tying goal. The contest remained tied at 1-1 for the rest of the third period, however, setting up overtime in the first contest pitting McDavid against Eichel. And in the extra frame, McDavid, who led all Oilers forwards with 22:23 in ice time, would play hero immediately following a near miss by, you guessed it, Eichel.
The Sabres rookie had cut through the neutral zone, got one-on-one with Andrej Sekera, spun and put the puck just wide of the Oilers net. Eichel’s miss wrapped around the corner and ended up right on McDavid’s tape. Flying up ice, McDavid got to the outside on Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and rifled a backhander that snuck between the legs of Lehner:
McDavid’s overtime tally was his third game-winner of the season and his second since returning to the Oilers’ lineup on Feb. 2. And even if Eichel was held off the score sheet, his play Tuesday was outstanding.
"I thought (Eichel) and (McDavid) were probably the two best players on the ice tonight,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said post-game. “They didn't disappoint.”
They certainly didn’t. And this was only Round One.