Saturday night’s premiere edition of the Battle of Alberta was a fairly odd one. There were flashes of brilliant play by both teams, but the game between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers was defined more by miscues, gaffes and lapses than it was by highlight reel plays.
The Flames got out to a big lead after the first period, then managed hold on to escape Rogers Place with a 4-3 victory over Edmonton.
The Flames opened the scoring early in this contest. 73 seconds in, Mikael Backlund won an offensive zone face-off and his line cycled the puck to the point. Michael Stone’s initial point shot was stopped by Jack Campbell, but nobody could corral the rebound, so Mikael Backlund grabbed it and deposited it into the net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
But the Oilers responded just 2:05 later. The Oilers used their speed to back the Flames’ defenders into their zone a bit, which gave them space for some slick passing. Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto went back and forth, feeding Cody Ceci at the point for a clear shot. He beat Dan Vladar glove-side to tie the game at 1-1.
But the Flames regained their lead just 1:17 later, off a play remarkably similar to their opening goal. Kevin Rooney won an offensive zone face-off back to the point, where Stone fired a shot through traffic. It found a way through several bodies, including Campbell’s, to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.
The game got a bit muddled after this, as the teams took minor penalties in rapid succession. Eventually, it resulted in a brief Flames power play. On that power play, Nazem Kadri collected the puck in the Flames zone and went for a skate through the neutral zone. Oilers blueliner Brett Kulak lost his footing and fell over in the neutral zone, giving Kadri all kinds of time and space to drive the net. He beat Campbell five-hole to give the Flames a 3-1 lead.
A little later, Oilers blueliner Ryan Murray couldn’t corral a bouncing puck along the boards in his zone. Kadri sped past him, grabbed the puck, and drove the net again. This time Campbell made a save on Kadri’s shot, but Andrew Mangiapane jammed in the loose rebound to give the Flames a 4-1 lead.
Campbell got the hook after the fourth goal, with backup Stuart Skinner coming in for the remainder of the game.
In the first period, shots were 16-11 Flames (12-7 Flames at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances (via Natural Stat Trick) were 7-5 Flames (and 5-3 Flames in terms of high-danger chances).
The Flames held things together fairly well in the first 10 minutes of the second period, but then cracks began to form in their defensive game. Some casual puck management in the neutral zone led to a turnover to Connor McDavid, a Blake Coleman minor, and a nice passing sequence on the resultant power play that led to an Edmonton goal. Draisaitl fed Evander Kane on the left side of Vladar’s crease, and his no-look backhand pass to McDavid ended up deposited into the net to cut the Flames’ lead to 4-2.
A little later, the Oilers executed a nice play in the Flames zone to cut the lead further. Ryan McLeod won a face-off back to Murray at the point. Murray pinched and went to carry the puck behind the Flames’ net, but instead passed to McLeod parked to Vladar’s right. McLeod’s chip-shot beat Vladar to cut the lead to 4-3 Flames.
In the second period, shots were 11-10 Flames (9-8 Flames at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 8-6 Oilers (and 6-2 Oilers in terms of high-danger chances).
The third period saw the Flames exhibit better puck management, but the Oilers defended quite well in front of Skinner and made the Flames work to get to the front of the net. But the Flames did what they could to keep the puck in the offensive zone and got a few great stops from Vladar late during a frenzied finish, and that was enough to cement a 4-3 road win against the Oilers.
In the third period, shots were 15-8 Flames (11-5 Flames at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 13-7 Flames (and 4-1 Flames in terms of high-danger chances).
Why the Flames won
This was a weird game from the perspective of the visitors. They were really energetic throughout this contest, but their overall structure without the puck was only really in force for chunks of the first and third periods. Their puck management decisions were, at times, puzzling.
Ultimately, the Flames got out to a fairly big lead because the other team had some defensive zone miscues in terms of execution, and that lead got whittled down somewhat because the Flames made some miscues of their own.
The team that made the fewest overall mistakes ended up winning.
A few players in red and white looked pretty strong overall. Let’s go with Kadri, who was flying and scored the third goal all by himself and set the fourth goal up on a silver platter for Mangiapane.
Making his first career appearance against the Oilers, Vladar was perfectly fine in net. He didn’t steal the game for the Flames, nor did he give it away.
Percentage stats are 5v5 and via Natural Stat Trick. Game score via Hockey Stat Cards.
This and that
Stone was in on the Flames’ first three goals.
Stone revealed that he was on the bench for Kadri’s goal, which gave him his third point. He was interviewed by Sportsnet at the first intermission, so he was aware of his three-point period at that point.
This was the first three-point game for Stone at any level of hockey since he had three for the Calgary Hitmen way back on Mar. 12, 2010 in a 7-2 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Flames (2-0-0) are off tomorrow. They’re back in action on Tuesday night when they host the Vegas Golden Knights.