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In both team’s first outing following the holiday break, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers played a heck of a hockey game. Both clubs had their moments in a back-and-forth affair where there wasn’t much deciding this one.
What did decide this tight game was the Oilers’ power play, which cashed in on one of three opportunities – as is their tendency – and the Flames dropped a close 2-1 contest to the Oilers.
The opening period featured two teams trying to shake the holiday rust off, and neither team scored a goal.
The first few minutes were a bit disjointed, but by the midway point both teams were skating and looking effective. The Flames had a slight edge in terms of controlling play, and they had a really effective penalty kill after taking a too-many-men bench minor midway through the period.
First period shots were 10-9 Flames (10-8 Flames at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 12-7 Flames (high-dangers were 5-4 Flames).
Just over a minute into the second period, the Flames cashed in, though. The Oilers iced the puck and the Flames put out Mikael Backlund’s line against Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ (tired) line. That resulted in a long cycling sequence, a couple good chances, and a few puck battles won by the Flames to maintain their puck possession and continue the cycle. Eventually, a nice Noah Hanifin read led to the two defenders adjusting their positions, an Andrew Mangiapane scoring chance and Backlund batting the rebound in past Stuart Skinner to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.
But a little bit later, the Oilers tied things up. Kailer Yamamoto made a smart pass to the point to Tyson Barrie. Barrie leaned into a slap shot with a bunch of bodies between him and Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom couldn’t grab it with his glove – he probably had issues tracking the shot with the bodies around – and suddenly the game was tied up at 1-1.
Markstrom was superb on a subsequent Oilers power play, though. He made four saves, including two one-timer stops on Leon Draisaitl. The Flames’ power play looked good as well, generating a bunch of shots but just missing out on a go-ahead goal.
Second period shots were 14-9 Flames (10-5 Flames at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 15-3 Flames (high-dangers were 4-1 Flames).
The Flames took another minor in the third period and the Oilers cashed in. Andrew Mangiapane was called for holding after he grabbed Darnell Nurse’s arm while trying to chase down a puck. On the resulting power play, the Oilers won the face-off, made a couple quick passes, and Connor McDavid fired a shot from the circles that beat Markstrom to give Edmonton a 2-1 lead.
The Flames pulled Markstrom late for the extra attacker, but they couldn’t tie things up – Backlund rang one off the post behind Skinner with about five seconds left – and the Oilers held on for a 2-1 victory.
Third period shots were 24-4 Flames (23-3 Flames at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 17-6 Flames (high-dangers were 8-1 Flames).
Why the Flames lost
There wasn’t much separating these two clubs. The Flames did a nice job making Skinner make some key saves. The big challenge for the Flames was getting more from their special teams units (and avoiding taking special teams damage). Unfortunately, when you’re playing a team that converts on 32.3% of their man advantages, and you’ve already killed off two of their power plays, maybe avoid playing with fire a third time.
The Flames did a ton of things well at five-on-five. But with how much rubber they put towards Edmonton’s net, in all game situations, they needed to find a way to get that one extra goal. You can’t fault their efforts though; 47 shots on goal, plus a couple great chances that hit iron instead of going in.
Let’s go with Backlund: he had the lone goal, a ton of shots, and was borderline dominant at the face-off dot.
Honourable mention to Markstrom, who was excellent in spells during this game.
Mangiapane’s holding penalty in the third period, 200 feet away from his own net, was the wrong penalty by the wrong guy at the wrong time. The Flames had oodles of momentum and offensive swagger, and it seemed like a matter of time until they converted on a scoring chance.
Instead, with #88 sitting in the box of punishment, the best player in hockey gave the opposing team the go-ahead goal.
This and that
Backlund’s goal was his 16th of his NHL career against Edmonton (and his 44th point in his career against Edmonton). Both are the most he has registered against any NHL franchises.
The Flames (16-13-7) are hitting the road, again! They’re immediately off to scenic Seattle to play the Kraken on Wednesday night.