3 Takeaways from Flames’ Frustrating 5-3 Game 4 Loss to the Oilers

The Calgary Flames are in a massive hole after falling 5-3 to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 4 on Tuesday night. The hope was that after back-to-back losses they would be able to regroup and come out with a better effort for an entire 60 minutes, but that was not the case.

While they were able to do a somewhat better job of containing Connor McDavid, it didn’t make much of a difference as players like Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all came up big with multi-point outings. With the loss, the Flames are now on the verge of elimination and will return to the Saddledome on Thursday night in what is a do-or-die game. Here are three of the biggest takeaways from Tuesday night’s frustrating defeat.

Flames Slow Off the Hop

In the opening two games of this series, it was the Oilers who came out flat in the first period. That was the exact opposite in Game 4, as the Flames gave up the opening goal just 21 seconds into the contest and found themselves trailing 3-0 after the opening frame.

Related: 3 Former Maple Leafs Playing Key Roles in Success of Oilers

While the first goal given up to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was frustrating enough, it has been well documented that you simply cannot put this Oilers team on the power play. Tyler Toffoli did just that, as he tripped up Warren Foegele just prior to the midway point of the first period, and Zach Hyman made him pay. It was a very undisciplined penalty to take, especially for a veteran player.

Shaky Goaltending from Markstrom

Throughout the entire 2021-22 season, as well as the first round of the playoffs, Jacob Markstrom was dominant for the Flames. During the regular season, he compiled a 2.22 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .922 save percentage (SV%) and as a result was named a Vezina Trophy finalist. The expectation was that he would continue his great play into this series, but that has been far from the case.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames makes a save against Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Through these four games against the Oilers, the 32-year-old has been torched for 19 goals. He is being outdueled by Mike Smith, something that nobody saw coming before this series began. Whether it is fatigue from playing too many games this season, or simply just a rut, it is costing the Flames in a big way right now.

Things started out rough for Markstrom right from the get-go in this one, as he went behind the net to play the puck and put it right onto the tape of Nugent-Hopkins to give the Oilers an early lead. He was then beaten by a Hyman rebound on the power play, and also gave up a long-distance shot to Evander Kane that extended the Oilers’ lead to 3-0.

To his credit, he came out strong in the second period with several big glove saves to keep his team in the game. However, once they stormed back to tie things at three apiece in the third, he was unable to come up with the big save a goalie of his caliber needs to make, as, with just minutes remaining in the third, Nugent-Hopkins once again beat him to regain the lead for the Oilers. That would prove crucial, as Kane sealed the deal on an empty-net goal shortly afterward.

Tkachuk & Gaudreau Limited

For the second straight game, both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were held off the scoresheet. Both players did have their chances throughout the night but were unable to solve Smith. It has been an extremely disappointing series from both of the Flames’ top two stars, who many expected to take advantage of a questionable Oilers blue line paired with their often inconsistent goaltending.

Matthew Tkachuk Calgary Flames
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Suggesting that these two are caving to the pressure of playoffs isn’t fair given that both, Gaudreau in particular, have had their moments through the first 11 games of the postseason. However, they are regarded as the two best players on the Flames, and if they want to not only extend this series but go on to win it, they will need to be much better than we have seen in Games 3 and 4.

Great Start Needed in Game 5

If the Flames hope to pull out a victory at the Saddledome in Game 5, they will need a much better start than fans saw on Tuesday. The Oilers have proven not only at times in this series, but often throughout the regular season that they are prone to giving up leads early into games. Coach Darryl Sutter’s squad needs to take advantage of just that, and then find a way to play stingy defence-first hockey like we have seen them do plenty of this year. It is a difficult road ahead, but not an impossible one if they play to the level they are capable of.

Sign up for our regular 'Flames Newsletter' for all the latest.