This weekend’s games are a bit of an oddity, as the Calgary Flames play two games without their old head coach but also without their new head coach. If Saturday’s game with the Edmonton Oilers is any indication, the Flames are going to be fine the rest of the season. They were engaged, entertaining and a little bit unlucky as they dropped a really entertaining game by a 3-2 score to the Oilers.
The Flames looked full of pep and energy in the first period. They forechecked. They body checked. They back-checked. They drew penalties, and that led to a goal.
With Kailer Yamamoto in the box, the Flames scored just 33 seconds into their advantage. Johnny Gaudreau buried a cross-zone feed from Elias Lindholm past Mike Smith to give the road side a 1-0 lead.
Shots were 21-10 Flames and scoring chances 11-8 Flames in the first period.
The Oilers had some pushback in the second period and the period was really even overall. Both teams had their looks, and Chris Tanev launched Kyle Turris with a huge hit.
With three minutes left in the period, the Oilers tied it up. A Kris Russell shot through an unintentional Lindholm screen hit the post. In the confusion, Jesse Puljujarvi drove the net and tucked in the rebound to make it a 1-1 hockey game.
Shots were 12-7 Oilers and scoring chances 4-4 in the second period.
The Flames came out in the third period looking like they wanted their lead back. They proceeded to get their lead back. The Tkachuk-Dube-Lindholm line had a monster shift in the Oilers zone, getting multiple chances, cycling the puck, and tiring Edmonton’s defenders out. Lindholm accepted a Dube pass from the corner, made a dandy spin pass to Noah Hanifin, and Hanifin’s shot through a bit of traffic eluded Smith to make it a 2-1 Flames lead.
But a few minutes later, the Oilers responded back off the rush. A momentary defensive lapse by Mikael Backlund left Yamamoto wide open for a great pass from Leon Draisaitl. Backlund tried to get his stick in the shooting lane, and his minor deflection ramped the Yamamoto shot just a smidge over Markstrom’s glove to tie the game at 2-2.
And with just over three minutes remaining, Connor McDavid made a great shot off a rush and sniped the far side of the net on Markstrom. The Flames defended it intelligently, but McDavid absolutely put a precision shot on net to give Edmonton a 3-2 lead, which they managed to hold onto for the victory.
Shots were 11-8 Oilers and scoring chances 6-5 Oilers in the third period.
Why the Flames lost
The Flames were way better than Edmonton in the first period, but could only get one puck past Smith. If they could’ve banked more offense there, it’s a different game. But Edmonton found their legs as the game went on, and it was a much more even game in the last two periods.
But if the Flames look like this and play like this more often than not from here on out, they’re going to be a challenging team to play in the (Scotia NHL) North Division.
Lindholm had two primary assists, setting up two Calgary goals with awesome passes.
But stick-taps to Tanev, who was excellent throughout this game.
The turning point
The Flames just couldn’t hold onto their lead in the third period and once Yamamoto tied it up, you got the sense that Edmonton would find a way to grab another one.
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Percentage stats are 5v5.
This and that
The first period featured two fights. Milan Lucic fought Darnell Nurse and Matthew Tkachuk fought James Neal.
With Darryl Sutter unavailable due to quarantine rules, Ryan Huska was Calgary’s coach of record for this game.
The Flames (11-12-2) are back in action tomorrow night at the Saddledome when they host the Ottawa Senators.