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Fabbri, Blues defeat Oilers in McDavid's debut

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Another rookie stole the show in Connor McDavid's NHL debut.

St. Louis Blues forward Robby Fabbri scored his first NHL goal, the game-winner in the third period of a 3-1 season-opening victory against the Edmonton Oilers at Scottrade Center on Thursday.

Fabbri took a blind, behind-the-back pass from Jori Lehtera in the slot and beat Oilers goalie Cam Talbot high glove side at 9:29 to break a 1-1 tie.

Fabbri, whose parents Len and Stef were in attendance, jumped into the corner boards with a wide grin. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Fabbri (19 years, 259 days) is the youngest Blues player to score in his NHL debut.

"I can't really remember, but it was a great feeling," said Fabbri, the 21st pick of the 2014 NHL Draft who was plus-1 with three hits in 10:28 of ice time. "Getting in that huddle there with the guys (celebrating the goal) felt great.

"I came off the bench and I saw the play there. I wasn’t sure if [Lehtera] saw or heard me, so for him to make that play, it was an amazing pass."

It was the first NHL game for several players, including McDavid, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. He was minus-1 with two shots in 18:07.

Fabbri and McDavid are friends and were teammates for Canada at the World Junior Championship.

"I guess I’ve got some bragging rights," Fabbri said. "We'll see how long that lasts."

McDavid had mixed feelings about his game.

"I did some good stuff, did some bad stuff," the 18-year-old said. "Whenever [Fabbri] scores late in the game, you never want to see that when you're the opposing team. The Blues are obviously a great team, tough to play against for sure. Kind of move on from here.

"There was a lot of attention on (the game); glad it's over. As the game went on, I felt better about it. Had a couple of chances."

Vladimir Tarasenko and Troy Brouwer scored for the Blues, and Brian Elliott made 23 saves.

"All the talk that you have, all the preparation that you have for exhibition, you don't really know the level until you experience it," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought where we turned the game around a little bit was in the second half of the second period. We started to really check and create turnovers and really got after them a little bit and started to put a bunch of shots up. We really started to check in the second period and that kind of turned the momentum for us a little bit."

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the Oilers; Talbot made 28 saves in his and coach Todd McLellan's first game with Edmonton.

"If you're going to start in the National Hockey League and go against big, strong (and) heavy, this is the place to do it," McLellan said. "They play that way. At times, I thought [McDavid] was very dangerous and at other times I didn't think that line had a lot going. It's a matter of timing and chemistry and finding the right combinations for him and his linemates (Taylor Hall and Anton Slepyshev)."

The Blues carried the play early in the first period before the Oilers settled in, and Nugent-Hopkins gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead without actually shooting the puck.

After he lost an offensive-zone faceoff to David Backes, Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo's clearing attempt caromed off Alexander Steen's knee backward past Elliott with 2:38 remaining.

Tarasenko scored on a breakaway from a Pietrangelo outlet pass. The forward beat Talbot between the pads 9:10 into the second period to tie the game 1-1.

"I didn't need to look. I knew it was going in," Pietrangelo said. "He's going to score those. Makes it look awfully easy, that's for sure. Impressive."

Brouwer, making his Blues debut after being traded by the Washington Capitals, scored into an empty net with 17.4 seconds remaining.

"It was a first game for us and them," Pietrangelo said. "There's going to be ups and downs. If you look at the overall game, I was pretty impressed with our effort. We got away from it there for a bit in the second, but overall, you've got to be proud of a game like that."

Defensemen Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko made their NHL debut for the Blues; Slepyshev debuted for the Oilers.

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