CALGARY– There are a few possible explanations for the chaos surrounding the Calgary Flames’ 9-6 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1 of the second round of the Western Conference at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday.
The long wait for a Battle of Alberta playoff game, the first in 31 years, could turn momentarily insane.
“It was 9-6 so it’s not an ordinary game,” Flames forward said Blake Coleman, who scored two goals. “Maybe it’s the build up of 30 years or whatever it was for that rivalry. Lots of excitement, lots of jumping. But if our team is to be successful, we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The Flames’ ability to overcome adversity after losing a huge lead could be another.
“We probably played the worst 20 or 30 minutes of hockey, 15 or 20 minutes of hockey we have all year, definitely in the playoffs and it’s still a tie (6-6 at the start of the third period), said Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, who had a hat trick. “Wasn’t the end of the world. (You have to) still get out of there. I can’t turn around and let them win. It was great to score that seventh goal [Rasmus Andersson] and we went from there.”
Video: EDM@CGY, Gm1: Oilers, Flames combine for 15 goals
The tone of Game 1 was quickly set. Calgary forward Elias Lindholm and Andreas Mangiapane The Flames had a 2-0 lead after 51 seconds, an NHL record for the fastest two goals to start a playoff game.
“We weren’t ready and it’s difficult to catch up all night,” said the Oilers forward Leon Draisaitlwho had three points (one goal, two assists).
But as Edmonton miraculously caught up, his inability to protect the puck after the tie proved costly.
“We talked after the second round that whichever team defended first would win,” said Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft. “We have 6-6 (on Kailer YamamotoGoal from 1:28 into the third period0, then flipped some pucks and landed in the back of our net. As I keep saying, we scored six goals for the Calgary Flames at their building; That should be enough to win a game.”
Goalkeeping was also a factor; mike smith was drawn by Woodcroft after allowing three goals on 10 shots in 6:05. Michko Koskinen took the loss and allowed five goals in 37 shots. Jacob Markstrom allowed six goals on 28 shots but more importantly he saved the last eight shots he faced. The Flames scored the last three goals of the game.
“[Markstrom] gives us a lot of confidence,” said Tkachuk. “He said in front of the third, ‘You guys keep doing your thing, I’ll shut the door for you guys,’ and that’s exactly what he did. He was our MVP all year. Pretty much every goal that’s gone in before is something we take credit for, whether it’s a loss of possession or something that doesn’t work or just mental errors.
“He was our MVP all along. We have so much faith in him and the way he was able to close the door and calm things down in the third really helped us get that win.”
Perhaps the most reasonable explanation for a crazy Game 1 came from Flames coach Darryl Sutter.
“Strange game,” Sutter said. “We scored on our first two shots and there were probably six different games out there.”
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Calgary’s record-breaking start got the crowd pumped. The Flames kept pouring and the Oilers just weren’t able to handle that pressure in the first half of the game. The shots on goal in 29 minutes were 34-12 and the result was 6-2.
It was preposterous to think that the second half of the game could be like the first, and unsurprisingly Edmonton came alive. Connor McDavid continued to press and landed on four points (one goal, three assists) and the building went silent for a moment as Yamamoto buried his rebound to level it 6-6 early in the third period.
But it didn’t last; Andersson replied 1:29 later and the Flames recovered for the win. They led Game 1 58-05 despite the chaotic result.
It’s also good to remember that this didn’t come out of the blue, even though Calgary and the Dallas Stars combined scored 29 goals in their seven-game first-round streak. The Flames and Oilers are more than halfway through their 29th game as of Friday (10:30 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
However, remember that in their final regular-season clash on March 26, the Flames scored nine equal goals, turning a close game into a 9-5 loss.
So while lessons are learned from every game in the NHL, why not do it again?
We need to tune in on Friday and find out.