BUFFALO, N.Y. – Edmonton Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft likes to compare watching Connor McDavid play to living at the foot of Mount Everest, and being almost numbed by taking in the spectacular scene on a daily basis.
That view turned breathtaking for Woodcroft and the Oilers on Monday night, in witnessing McDavid score twice to push his NHL-leading goal total to 54, and set a career high with 124 points in a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
“The finish was all-world,” Woodcroft said of McDavid scoring the go-ahead goal on the fly by beating Craig Anderson through the legs 3:23 into the third period, and less than two minutes after the Sabres tied the game at 2.
“I saw someone that was competitive right from the puck right from the puck drop,” he added. “Connor’s at a different evolutionary stage in his game right now, and I think everyone saw that here tonight.”
McDavid continued making a case to win his third Hart MVP Trophy in eight seasons with his 12th multi-goal game of the year. His 124 points in 65 games are one more than the career-best he set in 80 games last year, and McDavid extended his points streak to 11 games, in which the Oilers’ captain has 12 goals and 15 assists.
“Who’s more likely to make a big play than him?” asked teammate Zach Hyman in wonder. “He’s the best player in the world, and he’s pushing his own boundaries. He’s been driving the bus for a long time and continues to get better.”
Derek Ryan also scored and Stuart Skinner stopped 37 shots for the Oilers, who improved to 5-4-3 in their past 12, and bounced back from a 7-5 loss at Winnipeg on Saturday.
Jeff Skinner and Dylan Cozens scored for the Sabres, and Anderson stopped 34 shots.
In dropping to 6-4 in its past 10, Buffalo continued its season-long struggles at home in losing five of its past seven.
Buffalo (32-26-4), in the midst of an NHL-worst 11-season playoff drought, failed to gain ground in a tight Eastern Conference race. The day began with four points separating the seventh-place New York Islanders, and ninth-place Buffalo, which was locked in a four-way tie with teams with 68 points.
Earlier in the day, Sabres coach Don Granato, declined to say whether he considered McDavid to be a step above everyone else in the league out of deference to his young stars. Afterward, Granato had no choice but to praise the Oilers’ captain, who scored twice on three shots on net.
“He’s got 50-plus for a reason, he doesn’t need many (shots),” Granato said. “He’s done that to lots of teams and goaltenders, and he was ready for his opportunities. That’s what makes him special.”
The Oilers (35-22-8) moved into a tie with Seattle for third in the Pacific Division.
After opening the scoring in the first period, McDavid scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, shortly after Cozens tied the game.
Warren Foegele drove up the left wing to gain the Sabres zone and then spun to hit McDavid in stride cutting up the middle. McDavid veered to his left to get by defender Jacob Bryson, and snapped a shot in though Anderson’s legs.
It was McDavid’s ninth game-winning goal of the season, after he began the day in a four-way tie for second and one behind teammate Leon Draisaitl.
INJURIES Oilers LW Evander Kane, who is traveling with the team, missed his ninth game with a rib injury. … The Sabres were without C Tyson Jost and Ds Mattias Samuelsson and Riley Stillman (head), who are listed day to day.
Oilers: At the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
Sabres: At the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.