The Calgary Flames were decent on Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers. They played fairly well at even strength and they skated well. But while the Flames were decent, Connor McDavid was really, really good. Hockey’s human cheat code took advantage of every Flames gaffe and foible en route to a 7-1 Edmonton win over the overwhelmed Flames.
Sam Bennett collided with Slater Koekkoek early in the first period in the neutral zone and was tagged with an interference penalty. Alex Chiasson redirected a Connor McDavid feed past Jacob Markstrom on the ensuing power play to make it 1-0 Oilers just over three minutes into the game.
A little later, McDavid was sprung into the Flames zone by a play by Darnell Nurse. With McDavid battling in the corner, Juuso Valimaki wandered from the net front area to help out. That left Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wide open and McDavid found him with a dandy pass. Nugent-Hopkins beat Markstrom high to give Edmonton a 2-0 lead.
The Flames got one back on a power play a little later on. Mikko Koskinen made the initial save off a Matthew Tkachuk redirect. Then he got shoved into the crease by Nurse and in the ensuing scrum, Andrew Mangiapane chipped the loose puck over Koskinen. The Oilers challenged the goal due to goalie interference, but it was upheld after a review.
Chucky causing chaos and Mang capitalizing 😎 pic.twitter.com/YhmQLNpWi9
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) February 21, 2021
And that’s as close as the Flames would get.
With Mikael Backlund in the box, McDavid tipped a Tyson Barrie point shot past Markstrom (with some traffic in front) to extend the Oilers lead to 3-1.
Shots were 19-10 Flames and scoring chances 8-7 Flames in the first period.
66 seconds into the second period, Noah Hanifin got his pocket picked by McDavid. McDavid went into the offensive zone with Nugent-Hopkins against Chris Tanev. McDavid was feigning a pass the entire time, not even looking Markstrom. Then he beat Markstrom with a sneaky shot, shooting across his body, to make it 4-1 Edmonton.
The Flames killed off a mid-period penalty, but Milan Lucic fell down during a McDavid onslaught in the offensive zone shortly afterward. That left Nesterov in-between trying to cover two players – and half-covering McDavid is a lot like not covering him at all – and McDavid spun around and beat Markstrom with a quick shot to make it 5-1 Edmonton. That ended Markstrom’s night and David Rittich joined the game in relief.
But Edmonton scored again. On a power play, a broken play just inside Calgary’s blueline saw the puck bloop over to Nugent-Hopkins at the face-off circle. Rasmus Andersson hesitated to cover him – two Flames were nearby – and Nugent-Hopkins took advantage of the confusion and beat Rittich with a quick shot to make it 6-1 Oilers.
Shots were 14-8 Flames and scoring chances 12-4 Flames in the second period.
36 seconds into the third period, a nice pass by Dominik Kahun sprung Josh Archibald on a partial breakaway. A wrister beat Rittich to convert the touchdown and give Edmonton a 7-1 edge.
Shots were 11-6 Flames and scoring chances 11-5 Flames in the third period.
Why the Flames lost
The easy answer is that they couldn’t contain McDavid. And no, they couldn’t. But if you look back on the goals they allowed, their details were lacking in key areas – their penalty killing (and their tendency to take penalties at the wrong time), their defensive coverage having lapses, and gaps in their overall 200-foot game that the Oilers were able to frequently exploit.
And exploit them they did.
Mangiapane had a goal, played a ton, and was generally noticeable in positive ways.
The turning point
The 3-1 McDavid goal was a heck of a tip on the power play (but a rough goal to give up late in a period). The 4-1 McDavid goal was an early goal in the second period, never a good sign, but it was also Peak McDavid Wizardry. The hat trick goal was part the Flames embracing defensive confusion with predictable results and part McDavid willing himself to a third goal.
The entirety of the hat trick was basically an 11 minute long turning point, as the Flames really had no significant response to any one of those goals.
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Percentage stats are 5v5.
This and that
Glenn Gawdin made his NHL debut. He didn’t play a heck of a lot, as you would expect given how the game unfolded. He made some smart plays in the offensive zone in the third period, for whatever that’s worth.
The Flames (8-9-1) are off to Toronto. They play the Maple Leafs on Monday night.