From top to bottom, the Oilers are finding a rhythm in the way they play

Connor McDavid, Kailer Yamamoto and Tyson Barrie had a goal and an assist each as the Edmonton Oilers routed the Buffalo Sabres 6-1.

EDMONTON  — On the day we drink Guinness, the Edmonton Oilers made the perfect point. 

Fitted with a 3-0 lead for the second straight game, the Oilers proved this time that they know what to do with it, shutting ‘er down and defeating the Buffalo Sabres 6-1 in a game they controlled from the drop of the puck to the final horn. 

“It was a full 60 minutes. Maybe as good a game as we have played all year,” said defenceman Tyson Barrie, who had a goal and an assist on a plus-2 night. “After two periods we realized that we had played a pretty solid game up to that point and we made a point of coming out and drilling home that last 20 minutes —  to show us what it feels like to play the full game.” 

After leading 3-0 five minutes into the game against Detroit on Tuesday, Edmonton found itself tied 5-5 in the third period before winning 7-5. Two nights later it blunted the Sabres, who were not very good at all. 

“What I saw was what everybody else saw,” said Sabres head coach Don Granato. “That was not a very good game.” 

For his team, perhaps. But the Oilers collected another two points on a what has been a perfect four-game homestand so far, and they’ll try for five straight when they host New Jersey in a Saturday matinee. 

The Oilers rolled four lines right overtop the Sabres on St. Patty’s Day, and as they begin to get their ‘A’ team back from Injured Reserve, Edmonton is finding a rhythm in the way it plays. 

“I thought we got contributions from everybody,” head coach Jay Woodcroft said. “All four lines, three D-pairs, Mike Smith was excellent, the penalty kill was good, we got a shorthanded goal and we scored a power play goal. All facets of the game seemed to be firing on all cylinders, and because we had everybody going, we were able to spread the minutes out nicely tonight.” 

On a night when five different Oilers had two-point nights, Zach Hyman was perhaps their most industrious player on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Jesse Puljujarvi. Hyman was a catalyst all night, the buzz saw that GM Ken Holland envisioned when he lured him in as a free agent last summer. 

“Just when it looks like there are three guys on him, he finds a way to outwork them all. That’s why he was so coveted,” Barrie said. “The thing about him is that he plays the same way every night. You can rely on him.” 

The Oilers' quest is to get the flightiness out of their game. In a league where everyone seeks consistency they’re no different, seeking an identity that they can roll out one night after the next. 

That means being a better defensive team to go along with the plethora of offence the Oilers possess, with Leon Draisaitl scoring his 40th Thursday and Connor McDavid flying around the ice, simply on a different level than his peers. 

He had two points but left early when he took a late stick in the chops. 

“Yep, sutures and he got zipped up. He's just fine,” said Woodcroft. “I don’t think he’s getting enough credit for what he’s doing defensively. He makes a lot of really subtle good plays in his own zone. He stops on pucks, and had some really good box outs tonight as well.” 

It’s true: McDavid’s defensive game has found a new level. With him and Draisaitl both playing a proper two-way game — and each of them heating up production-wise — the Oilers are rounding into a team that can beat you. 

“The Detroit game was a good lesson for us,” Hyman said. “It was nice to have learned from that and put it to the test. I thought we were great all the way through (Thursday).” 

A subplot against the Sabres was goalie Mike Smith getting another start, as he continues the journey to finding his game with his 40th birthday set for Tuesday. It’s hard enough for a young forward to overcome the games lost to injury that Smith has endured, and catch up to the pack as everyone else rounds into playoff form. 

But a 40-year-old goalie? 

Oilers fans were wondering if the task was impossible, but they received a ray of hope Thursday on a night that was exactly what the doctor ordered — a game where the shots arrived (mostly) methodically, and rarely in succession. This was a confidence-builder for Smith, beaten only on a quality one-timer by Victor Olofsson. 

He made 28 saves, but was asked to make very few spectacular ones. It’s a game he can build on, and he can thank the skaters for applying themselves against Buffalo the way they had not against Detroit. 

“That is always the goal, to make sure you help your goalie out as much as you can,” Hyman said. “In the first (period) there was a half breakaway and drive to the net and he made the saves on both of those. He just played steady all night and I thought his ability to move the puck... 

“It was great to get him the win and he earned it.” 

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