Two transcendent talents have not been able to prevent the Edmonton Oilers from being harshly criticized around the NHL. They have fired their coach and general manager since the season began, continuing a dramatic fall from grace since Connor McDavid nearly led them to the Western Conference finals two years ago.
Yet, their performance in a 4-3 win Monday night in KeyBank Center illustrated they could be making progress, while the Buffalo Sabres continue to trend in the wrong direction. The Oilers (29-30-7) scored three goals in a span of three minutes, 26 seconds during the second period to erase a two-goal deficit and earn their fifth win in seven games.
The Sabres (30-27-8) have lost eight of their last 10 – and have won only 13 of their last 41 since their 10-game win streak in November – and remain nine points back of the second wild-card playoff spot. Linus Ullmark was pulled after allowing four goals on 20 shots through two periods.
Leon Draisaitl opened scoring with his 41st goal of the season, and the Oilers got three consecutive goals from Zack Kassian, Darnell Nurse and Kyle Brodziak. McDavid had two assists to push his season point total to 92. The Sabres' Jack Eichel scored twice to match his career-high of 25 goals, and Casey Mittelstadt added a goal in the first period.
Shorthanded opening salvo: The Sabres were gifted a power play only 53 seconds into the game when Alex Chiasson lifted a puck over the glass from his own zone. However, the Oilers scored 35 second later when McDavid passed to Draisaitl during a 2-on-1, and Draisaitl scored for a 1-0 lead.
Captain Jack: Eichel, taken one spot behind McDavid in the 2015 draft, had multiple goals for the second time in five games. The 22-year-old captain tied the score, 1-1, by collecting a loose puck in the offensive zone and skating around Adam Larsson before shooting over Mikko Koskinen's glove at 2:42 into the first period.
Eichel pushed the Sabres' lead to 3-1 when he collected a loose puck in the neutral zone and scored on a far-side shot with 2:36 left in the first period.
Casey's progress: Mittelstadt broke the 1-1 tie at 6:31 in the first period when he one-timed Scott Wilson's backhanded pass over Koskinen's glove. Mittelstadt has 10 goals among 21 points in 61 games as a rookie, while Wilson's assist was his first NHL point this season.
3:26: The Sabres had a chance to take a three-goal lead in the second period but were unable to capitalize on a power play. Edmonton responded with three goals in 3:26 to take the lead. First, Kassian one-timed a pass from McDavid to cut the deficit to one and Nurse followed with his slap shot to beat Ullmark. Finally, with five seconds remaining in the second period, the Oilers took a 4-3 lead when Larsson's shot went off Brodziak's skate and in.
Familiar face: James Tobias, a 24-year-old West Seneca native, filled in as a linesman Monday night with Johnny Murray injured. Tobias graduated from Canisius College in 2017 with a degree in biology and officiated his first NHL game in November 2017.
Lineup: Defenseman Zach Bogosian was a late scratch after he participated in the Sabres' morning skate and is day to day with a lower-body injury, drawing Casey Nelson into the lineup. Nelson, 26, had not played in an NHL game since Dec. 4, and had a plus-6 rating in 22 games prior to suffering an injury. Forward Vladimir Sobotka missed a third consecutive game with an upper-body injury.
Next: The Sabres are scheduled to practice Tuesday in KeyBank Center and will not play again until Thursday night in Chicago.