In the first meeting of their professional careers, the game between the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night ended with one chance each for the top two picks in 2015 Draft. It began with Jack Eichel, storming down the ice for the Sabres in overtime, beating a defender and putting a spinning backhand shot toward the net.
Eichel's shot went wide and the puck ended in the hands of the Oilers' top pick Connor McDavid. He sped from end-to-end, blowing by Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, and squeezed a backhand shot of his own past goaltender Robin Lehner.
It was McDavid's second goal of the game with the two goals scored more than 60 minutes apart. He opened the scoring 22 seconds into the contest and won it with 1:12 remaining in the extra period. But the scope of the Sabres' 2-1 loss goes beyond McDavid and Eichel.
"I didn't like our team right from the start of the game," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "I didn’t like how prepared we were to start the game, play the game. We turned the puck over, gave them opportunities. We had four odd-man rushes in the first 12 minutes of the game.
"…We weren’t good in the game and it showed in the chances they had and it showed in the opportunities we gave them."
The reason Edmonton didn’t capitalize on more of their opportunities was yet another stellar night from Lehner, who made 39 saves including five big stops in overtime.
Lehner is 2-3-2 in his last seven games with a .953 save percentage and a 1.55 goals-against average, making it the best seven-game stretch of his career by both metrics. Lehner’s .933 save percentage through 16 games played is the second-best in the league among goalies with at least five games played, trailing only Carey Price (12 GP, .934).
"Robin did a great job," Bylsma said. "I mean he ends up with  saves but he had several point-blankers that were huge, especially the overtime and it probably makes it even a little bit more disappointing, the outcome of the game."
Lehner was the anchor of an outstanding effort on the penalty kill in overtime after Buffalo was called for having too many men on the ice. The penalty kill was 3-for-3 on the night, now perfect on its last seven attempts and successful on 25 of its last 26 opportunities.
"You see the guys we use and they're doing a heck of a job," said Sam Reinhart, who had an assist on Buffalo's only goal of the game. "[Ryan] O'Reilly was a big part of that and when he left [due to a lower-body injury] those guys carried it right over so that's been a big part of our success defensively over the last couple months for sure."
Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot earned the win with 31 saves.
O'REILLY KNOTS IT UP
Cal O'Reilly tied the game 9:06 into the third period thanks to a good breakout pass from Mark Pysyk and an even better pass in front of the net from Reinhart. The goal was O'Reilly's first since Dec. 21, 2011 when he was a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.
"It was a good feeling, short-lived here not getting the win obviously it doesn’t mean anything," O'Reilly said. "But it was nice to contribute a little bit."
Pysyk, holding the puck behind the net, banked a pass off the boards to Reinhart at the blue line. Reinhart carried the puck into the offensive zone and drove to the net, where he delivered a spin-o-rama pass across to an oncoming O'Reilly, who buried it into the open cage.
"We kind of made eye contact earlier and it kind of shows how smart he is to put himself in that position," Reinhart said. "Right when I turned, he kind of knew where the puck was going and was able to put himself there."
McDAVID STRIKES FIRST
It took all of 22 seconds for McDavid to put the Oilers on the board in the first period. The rookie stripped the puck from Zach Bogosian at the blue line then got the puck back to Jordan Eberle. Eberle slid a pass back between Bogosian and Jake McCabe and McDavid beat an outstretched Lehner – going for the pokecheck – 1-on-1 with a backhand into the open net.
"I know the work he puts in and the talent he is so it wasn't a surprise," said Reinhart, who has played alongside McDavid on Team Canada at various international levels. "But from our standpoint, we would like to make things a little bit harder on their top guys."
CLOSE CALL AT THE LAST SECOND
It took two reviews to determine whether or not Andrej Sekera had scored the Oilers' second goal of the night as the horn sounded to end the second period. First, the referees had to ensure that Sekera's shot on a rebound had crossed the goal line before the clock hit zero – it had, by roughly half a second.
Edmonton began to celebrate, but Bylsma then incited one more review when he challenged that the Oilers had entered the zone offside on the goal-scoring drive. As it turns out, he was right – Anton Landers was still attempting to exit the offensive zone when the puck was carried in.
"I don’t have any vision of it, so I'm just hearing what I hear in my ear," Bylsma explained. "It was pretty close due to the fact that, until they touch the puck, the guy has time to come out of his zone. At first look, it's offside by a lot but when you look at it again it's pretty darn close."
With the goal overturned, the Sabres entered the second intermission down 1-0.
McCABE EXITS EARLY
The defenseman left the game with 3:39 remaining in the third period and did not return. McCabe took the worst of a crushing hit he delivered on Nail Yakupov, struggling to get to his feet until play was stopped. Yakupov returned on the following shift.
"I don’t have a report on Jake, I just know what I saw going off the ice," Bylsma said. "I think he hit Yakupov there and I think a skate or a knee came up and got him in the upper body, you know in the shoulder area and he went down pretty hard and looked pretty woozy going off the ice. But I don’t have any report at all about what it is."
The Sabres continue their three-game homestand when they host the Calgary Flames on Thursday night at First Niagara Center. It will be the second game played between the two teams, with the Flames having won the first matchup 4-3 on Dec. 10.
Coverage on Thursday begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Sportsnet 360. The game can also be heard on WGR 550.