McDavid continued to make a case for winning his third Hart Trophy for MVP in eight seasons with his 12th multi-goal game of the season, helping the Oilers to two crucial points in a clogged Western Conference playoff race.
“The finish was world-beating,” Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said of McDavid, who scored the go-ahead in an instant by beating Craig Anderson through the legs 3:23 into the third period and less than two minutes after the Sabers tied it. game at 2.
McDavid’s 124 points in 65 games are one more than the career best he set in 80 games last year, and the All-Star center extended his point streak to 11 games with 12 goals and 15 assists.
“I saw someone who was competitive right from the drop of the puck,” Woodcroft said. “Connor is at a different evolutionary stage in his game right now, and I think everybody saw that tonight.”
A crowd from an Eastern Conference city that doesn’t often get to see McDavid in person seemed to get their money’s worth even though the hometown Sabers failed to pick up two points in their battle for a wild-card spot.
“Who is more likely to make a big play than him?” teammate Zach Hyman said. “He’s the best player in the world and he’s pushing his own limits. He’s been driving the bus for a long time and keeps getting better.”
Derek Ryan also scored and Stuart Skinner stopped 37 shots for the Oilers, who improved to 5-4-3 in their last 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.
Falling to 6-4 in their last 10, Buffalo continued its season-long streak at home by losing five of its last seven.
Buffalo (32-26-4) is in the midst of an NHL-worst 11-season playoff drought, but remains in the mix and has games in hand on most of its competition. The day began with four points separating the seventh-place New York Islanders and ninth-place Buffalo, who were locked in a four-way tie with teams at 68 points.
Earlier in the day, Sabers coach Don Granato declined to say whether he considered McDavid to be a step above anyone else in the league out of respect for his young stars. Afterwards, 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 a lot of (shots),” Granato said. “He’s done it for a lot of teams and goalies, 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 place 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, then spun to hit McDavid in stride and cut up the middle. McDavid swung left to get past defender Jacob Bryson and fired a shot through Anderson’s leg.
It was McDavid’s ninth game-winning goal of the season after he started the day in a four-way tie for second and one behind teammate Leon Draisaitl.
McDavid and the Oilers will next take on the NHL-best Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.