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McDavid, Eichel provide memorable night

Top picks live up to hype in first chapter of rivalry

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

McDavid's two-goal night

EDM@BUF: McDavid nets a pair against the Sabres

3/1/16: Connor McDavid shows off in Buffalo, scoring 22 seconds into the game and tallying again in OT to lift the Oilers to a win

  • 00:49 •

Down the ice went Buffalo Sabres rookie Jack Eichel, skating with the puck on his stick, weaving and spinning and unleashing a backhanded shot that to the naked eye missed the net by maybe a foot, maybe less, but just enough to eventually spring you know who the other way.

Connor McDavid got the puck off of Eichel's miss on the right-wing half wall and went and won the game for the Edmonton Oilers. He used his tantalizing speed to get down the ice in a hurry and a power move to the net that led to a perfect backhanded five-hole shot to give the Oilers a 2-1 win, capping the first chapter in what certainly looks like a rivalry in the making.

The future is here. And it's awesome. 

All we need now is for the rest of the Sabres and Oilers to come along for the ride so Edmonton and Buffalo can become Stanley Cup contenders and, hopefully, cross your fingers, face each other in the Stanley Cup Final one day soon.

Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux never got there together. The dream is alive for McDavid and Eichel. 

In many ways it was fitting Tuesday to have the first NHL game between McDavid and Eichel (the rest of the Sabres and Oilers were there too, but let's be real, there were 19,070 sets of eyes fixated on the first two picks in the draft last year) on the same night as the game between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby (OK, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, but you get the point).

For nearly 11 years, the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry has been front and center in our hockey conscious, dominating the headlines and feeding hours of national television broadcasts and even more of talk radio and podcast debates across the globe. They've met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs once, almost seven years ago, but man was it ever delicious. 

Dueling hat tricks in Game 2 of a series that went seven games. It was a two-week extravaganza for hockey that nobody wanted to end.

The rivalry has lost its steam in recent years, but it still exists. Ovechkin and Crosby are, by the very definition of the word rivalry, competing for the same objective and for superiority in a singular field every time they play each other and, on a macro scale, each time they take the ice for their respective teams, regardless of the opponent.

So, no, it's not over yet, which is why nobody is pushing Crosby and Ovechkin to the side. All we're doing is asking them to make some room at the head table for the NHL's newest generational rivalry. 

It was bound to happen eventually. It did on Tuesday, encapsulated in 16 seconds, from the faceoff that led to Eichel's chance (3:32 into overtime) to the time McDavid put the puck through Robin Lehner's five-hole (3:48).

That Eichel missed and McDavid scored is not what matters, nor is it an indictment on the Sabres' center or proof of why the Oilers chose McDavid over Eichel with the No. 1 pick. What matters is that it was the two of them, in overtime, in the big moment, putting us all on the edge of our seats, taking our collective breath away with magical rushes down the ice showing off the skill and beauty in their games.

In an odd way it's better that Eichel didn't score (not for him or the Sabres, of course), because had he we wouldn't have been treated to McDavid's rush the other way, we wouldn't have had our first stirring moment in the McDavid-Eichel story.

It was a welcome-to-the-future moment in Buffalo. There's more to come. And it's going to be awesome.

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