So, Calgary played Edmonton tonight in the latest edition of the Battle of Alberta.
Edmonton came into Calgary without a win. They got a big one at the Scotiabank Saddledome, beating the Flames fairly handily by a 5-2 score. The Flames stayed with their visitors for the first 20-25 minutes or so, but their miscues gradually snow-balled and after a couple quick goals early in the final frame, the Oilers were triumphant. It’s the first Oilers victory over Calgary since December 2013.
The Flames are now 1-4-0 on the season, with their only victory being a 4-3 overtime win in Vancouver. They’ve since lost three straight.
A “battle” is generally defined as a clash between two equally-matched combatants. Tonight? It wasn’t.
The opening frame featured some frantic play from both sides, as each squad tried to feel each other out. The Flames continued their puck control (and possession) struggles, with their defensive zone play leaving something to be desired. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring mid-way through the period, after an Eric Gryba shot was blocked by Jonas Hiller; in making the save Hiller wiped himself out, so Nugent-Hopkins grabbed the rebound and scored. The first period also featured fisticuffs between Deryk Engelland and Luke Gazdic, who earned the win on points. Shots were 8-5 Calgary in the first, and the Flames also held an edge in shot attempts (18-15) and face-off wins (17-9) despite trailing by a goal heading to the intermission.
Remember how Calgary is bad at second periods? If you happen to have retrograde amnesia, unfortunately the Flames gave you a refresher in the form of a very forgettable second frame. First, the good: David Jones got a nice tip-in goal after some strong board-work behind the net by Micheal Ferland allowed him to feed Dennis Wideman for a shot from the right point that Jones tipped and trickled past Cam Talbot. Beyond that, the Flames weren’t good. They took three second period penalties and that gave the Oilers a bunch of good scoring chances. Thankfully, the Flames didn’t give up any power-play goals, but they did give up one off a bad shot in their own zone.
Dennis Wideman took a big shot from the side boards that missed the net by a country mile and rebounded right to Nail Yakupov, who fed it to Connor McDavid. McDavid went for a skate into Calgary’s zone and with Kris Russell screening Hiller, fired a shot between Russell’s legs and through Hiller’s pads for a 2-1 lead. Edmonton dominated in shots (14-5), shot attempts (29-14) and face-off wins (15-6), while the Flames seemed befuddled by what was happening around them.
The wheels fell off early in the third. Within the first 30 seconds, the Oilers had hit a post and then allowed a goal to Taylor Hall: the initial shot was stopped by Hiller, but Hall kept digging and digging and knocked it in. That made it 3-1. A couple minutes later, Kris Russell’s stick exploded and Taylor Hall was stopped by Hiller on a de facto break-away, and then the Flames couldn’t clear the zone after the next Oilers rush and Nail Yakupov got a nice tap-in goal off a feed from Benoit Pouliot. David Jones made it interesting mid-way through the period, finally generating something on the second-unit power-play with a wrister off the rush that beat Talbot. But the Flames just couldn’t generate anything else, and the Oilers added a beautiful goal by McDavid off a beautiful saucer pass from Hall to make it 5-2 and put it out of reach.
Shots in the third were 11-9 Calgary and attempts were 22-21 for the locals, but a lot of that was score effect, with the Oilers skating home easy with a three-goal lead. Face-offs continued to go Edmonton’s way, though, at 19-10 in the final frame.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
To be blunt? They were the worst version of themselves tonight.
We’re talking about neutral-zone turnovers. We’re talking about long, telegraphed stretch passes that were intercepted. We’re talking about bad penalties in the offensive and defensive zones. We’re talking about getting out-chanced at even-strength – my count was 13-6 for the visitors at 5-on-5. We’re talking about a series of defensive lapses, with a series of failed attempts to clear their own zone – leading to tired players just dumping it in and going for line changes instead of creating chances when they did get the puck.
They seemed to do one or two bad things for every good thing they did. And they paid for it tonight with a one-sided loss to a winless team.
Let’s go with David Jones, because he scored twice. But he was also minus-2, so take that with a grain of salt. Nobody was particularly good tonight.
“They won a lot of battles. They put pucks to the net and they basically deserved to win that game, and we didn’t.” – Mark Giordano
“I felt that they out-worked us, out-executed us, wanted it more, won battles. I don’t know what it is. The team we were last year, I don’t know if we just think it’s gonna happen. There was a reason we were good last year, it was the work we put in, and now we’re just not.” – Kris Russell
“I don’t think we’ve played particularly well in any games, as far as the whole sixty minutes, so I don’t think home or away it has anything to do with that. But certaintly you have to be better in front of your home fans, and in a game like this we gotta find a way to put a better forth than that.” – David Jones
“Last night we gave it away late and tonight, we didn’t even show up.” – Bob Hartley
The 1-4-0 Calgary Flames are in action next on Tuesday against Alex Ovechkin and the (3-1-0) Washington Capitals. Expect some line-up changes before that tilt.