BUFFALO – Connor McDavid and the high-octane Edmonton Oilers rolled into town Monday, and as expected, fans got their money’s worth.
The superstar continued perhaps the most dynamic NHL season this century, scoring two goals, including the third-period winner, in the Oilers’ entertaining 3-2 win over the Sabres before a crowd of 17,634 at KeyBank Center.
McDavid’s wraparound goal opened the scoring 7:21 into the contest, then he put the Oilers up 3-2 3:23 into the third period, beating Sabres goalie Craig Anderson from the left circle.
Incredibly, McDavid has scored a stunning 54 goals and 124 points through only 65 games this season.
But the Sabres, believe it or not, kept McDavid, 26, in check most of the night, limiting him to just three shots on goal and three shot attempts. The ultra-talented center just made his chances count.
“I felt we did a nice job (on McDavid),” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “He’s got 50-plus for a reason. He doesn’t need many.”
Sabres winger Casey Mittelstadt said: “(We had) a couple breakdowns against probably the best player in the world, it’ll cost you. Other than that, I thought we played well, dictated the pace and had the better chances.”
The Sabres, one of the few teams that can match the Oilers’ speed and scoring prowess, often carried the play. They struggled, however, to convert their opportunities, getting stymied by goalie Stuart Skinner, who made 37 saves, or misfiring.
“He was good,” Granato said of Skinner. “We had lots of looks. We missed the net quite a few times, too, on some point-blank chances that now, after the fact, it’s very frustrating, because that turned out to be the difference in the game. We generated more than enough to win that game.”
Sabres center Dylan Cozens said: “We think that game could’ve gone either way, for sure. I think we played good for pretty much a full 60, just sometimes you don’t win them. I think their goalie stood on his head and made a lot of huge saves for them.”
The Sabres, who play a road game tonight against the New York Islanders, trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by three points for the Eastern Conference’s second wild card spot. The Islanders are one point ahead of the Penguins.
Despite losing a terrific opportunity to pick up a point or two, the Sabres can take some solace in outplaying the Oilers and countering them throughout the night.
Following McDavid’s goal 7:21 into the contest, winger Jeff Skinner’s power-play goal at 9:45 tied the game.
The Oilers had a 20-15 shot advantage during an action-packed first period in which the Sabres failed to covert a slew of early scoring chances.
“Being able to get a couple of saves right off the bat kind of made me feel a little bit better going into the game,” Skinner said.
The Sabres clamped down in the second period, outshooting the Oilers 13-6.
After Derek Ryan put Edmonton up 2-1 18:45 into the second period, Cozens knotted it 41 seconds into the third.
The Sabres never flinched in the third period, showcasing terrific composure.
“We stayed on it,” Granato said. “I thought we had great energy all the way through the game. That’s No. 1, we need to be dialed in, focused, play with energy, play with pace. A combination of all that is how we want to play. So the one thing we need to do is play the way we want to play, and I felt we did that tonight.”
The Sabres fell to 13-17-2 at home.
Sabres center Tage Thompson recorded an assist on Skinner’s goal, his 83rd point this season. Anderson made 33 saves.