Sometimes, games are built up and don’t deliver. Saturday night’s opening instalment of the Battle of Alberta between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers delivered. In an offensive slugfest, the Flames managed to hold on for a 6-4 victory to get back to the .500 mark for the season.
The good news is the Flames scored in the opening minute. The bad news is they didn’t do a ton for the remainder of the first period. Dillon Dube entered the zone with speed and whiffed on a shot attempt. But Elias Lindholm grabbed the loose puck and wristed it past Mikko Koskinen to give Calgary a 1-0 lead.
After that goal, the Oilers took over the rest of the period and registered 16 of the next 18 shots on goal. The Oilers couldn’t score on their first power play, but shortly after Jujhar Khaira redirected a William Lagesson point shot past Jacob Markstrom to tie the game at 1-1. (Juuso Valimaki didn’t tie up Khaira in front of the net.)
Mark Giordano took a “puck over glass” minor late in the second, but the Flames killed it off. Right after that, though, Joakim Nordstrom took a goalie interference call cutting across the Oilers crease (and tripping Koskinen). On the ensuing advantage, Connor McDavid fired a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pass over Markstrom’s glove to give Edmonton a 2-1 lead.
Shots were 17-3 Oilers and scoring chances 8-2 Oilers in the first period.
The Flames found their legs in the second period and went to work. Early in the period, they got a forecheck going and established a cycle down low in Edmonton’s end. Andrew Mangiapane’s wrap-around chance glanced off Koskinen’s pad and went right to Milan Lucic. He chipped the puck short-side past Koskinen to tie game at 2-2.
A little bit later, the Flames took the lead. Milan Lucic flung a flip-pass into the neutral zone, springing Mangiapane and Mikael Backlund for two-on-one. Backlund oped to shoot, then got own rebound past Koskinen to give the Flames a 3-2 edge.
Shots were 16-5 Flames and scoring chances 11-2 Flames in the second period.
The Oilers tied things up early in the third period as the two teams traded rush chances. Sam Bennett’s backhand chance was stopped by Koskinen, but Jesse Puljujarvi got a head of steam, turnstiled Calgary’s defenders, then beat Markstrom to tie things up 3-3.
But Puljujarvi took a minor 22 seconds after he scored. On the ensuing Flames power play, Dube’s slap shot found a way through Koskinen and into the net to give the Flames a 4-3 lead.
A few minutes later, the Flames extended their lead. Mark Giordano cleared the Flames zone and Sean Monahan sprang Johnny Gaudreau on a partial breakaway. Gaudreau picked the top corner, glove-side, on Koskinen to give the Flames a 5-3 lead.
The Oilers got one back during some four-on-four play. Leon Draisaitl drove into the Flames zone and created some confusing among who was supposed to cover whom. This confusion left Darnell Nurse all alone in the slot and he beat Markstrom clean to cut Calgary’s lead to 5-4.
But two minutes later, the Flames restored their two goal lead. Gaudreau retrieved a rim-around pass from Chris Tanev behind the net. He found Sam Bennett in the slot for a quick shot that beat Koskinen to extend the Flames’ lead to 6-4.
The Oilers pulled their goalie and spent a ton of time in the offensive zone, but the Flames managed to hold on for the win. Shots were 9-9 and scoring chances 5-4 Flames in the third period.
Why the Flames won
Well, the Flames were pretty flat to open the game, and seemed overwhelmed after their scored the opening goal. They were fortunate that they had Jacob Markstrom in net to keep them alive.
But they do, and he did, and it gave the Flames a chance to reset. And they came out and were the better team over the final 40 minutes. That was enough to get them a huge two points and a win over the Oilers.
There were a lot of good performances. But let’s give the nod to the goalie, who was busy and good throughout this game.
Stick-taps to a slew of other fine performances: Backlund, Gaudreau, Mangiapane and Lucic among them.
The turning point
Dube’s power play marker gave the Flames (a) a two-goal lead and (b) a big emotional lift when they needed it.
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Percentage stats are 5v5.
This and that
This was Noah Hanifin’s 400th NHL game.
The Flames wore their slick black “Blasty” reverse retro jerseys. They’ll wear them five more times this season.
The Flames (5-5-1) are back in action on Tuesday night against a familiar foe: the Winnipeg Jets! Put some coffee on, as it’s an 8 p.m. MT start on Sportsnet West!