BUFFALO, N.Y. – Connor McDavid scored his second goal in overtime to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night in an anticipated matchup against another top rookie, Jack Eichel.
Cam Talbot made 31 saves for the Oilers, and Edmonton began a four-game trip with its second straight win.
McDavid and Eichel provided a buzz for this one even though the Oilers and Sabres are both among the NHL’s bottom five teams. McDavid was the first pick in last year’s draft and Eichel went second, and both players are considered potentially generational talents.
McDavid scored 22 seconds into the game, and then got the winner by blowing past Buffalo’s defence seconds after Eichel spun around a defender and missed just wide with a twirling backhand shot.
Cal O’Reilly scored his first goal of the season for the Sabres and Robin Lehner made 39 saves.
Lehner had made five saves during the overtime period and the Sabres killed off a 2-minute penalty for having too many men on the ice.
Buffalo tied it 9:06 into the third period. Rookie centre Sam Reinhart, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, made a spinning, no-look, backhand pass to set up O’Reilly for a short backhand in front of the net.
Former Sabre Andrej Sekera appeared to score off a rebound in the final second of the third period, but the goal was overturned after Sabres coach Dan Bylsma challenged that Anton Lander was offside on the play.
McDavid, the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for February, made an immediate impact, creating a scoring chance on the forecheck and capitalizing on it to put the Oilers ahead before Eichel even got on the ice.
After losing the opening faceoff, McDavid stripped the puck from Sabres defender Zach Bogosian near the blue line. Jordan Eberle tipped the puck back to McDavid on the left side of the crease, where he faked a wrist shot and slid to his right to tap a backhand behind a sprawling Lehner, drawing boos from the sellout crowd at First Niagara Center.
McDavid has 19 points in 15 games since returning from a broken clavicle last month. He has 12 goals and 31 points in 28 games this season. Eichel has 17 goals and 41 points in 64 games.
Eberle got his 19th assist of the season and has 11 points in his last 10 games.
Eichel centred the Sabres top line but did not start the game. He passed up an open shot on a wraparound midway through the first period but finished with five shots on goal. Eichel won the first faceoff between the two centres.
Talbot made 12 saves in each of the first two periods. Bogosian got a shot past the goaltender 5 minutes into the game, but defenceman Adam Pardy, a former Sabre, cleared the puck before O’Reilly could tap it in.
McDavid and Eichel have been linked since September 2014, when NHL scouts projected them to be the top two draft prospects. In Buffalo, fans were so excited over the chance of the Sabres drafting one or the other they created the nickname, “McEichel,” combining both players’ last names.
The Sabres finished last in the league last season, but were relegated to picking second after the Oilers won the draft lottery.
The game also came one day before the Canadian-born McDavid and American-born Eichel are expected to be named among the first 16 players selected to Team North America’s World Cup of Hockey roster. The squad will consist of players 23 and younger and will be coached by Oilers coach Todd McLellan.
NOTES: Centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins joined the Oilers on this trip but likely won’t play until the team returns home, McLellan said. Nugent-Hopkins has missed 18 games with a broken finger. … The Sabres recalled forwards Daniel Catenacci and O’Reilly on Tuesday and sent forward Justin Bailey to AHL Rochester. … O’Reilly’s goal was his first since Dec. 21, 2011, when he was a member of the Phoenix Coyotes. … Former Sabre and Team Europe GM Miroslav Satan was in the arena scouting for the World Cup of Hockey. … McDavid did not play in the Oilers’ 4-2 win over the Sabres on Dec. 6.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.
© 2016 The Associated Press