The first Battle of Alberta was full of offence as the Calgary Flames came out victorious over the Edmonton Oilers, 6-4. It was an important win for the Flames as they snapped a two-game losing skid, and looked good doing it, debuting their new Reverse Retro “Blasty” uniforms. The team finished strong but they were once again their own worst enemy in the first period.
The Flames became dominant in the final two frames after a flat first period. Thanks to secondary scoring and another solid performance from Jacob Markstrom, the team came away with the win in game one of 10 against the Oilers this season.
Another Slow Start
I recently noted that the Flames have been notorious this season for getting off to slow starts, and once again the team came out flat. In the first minute, Dillon Dube was able to get a break in the neutral zone and skate into the offensive zone where a drop pass was quickly finished off by Elias Lindholm just 56 seconds into the game. After the goal, though, the Flames could not get anything going and it quickly became all Oilers.
The team was hampered by a string of penalty kills — one ended up costing them and putting them behind 2-1 while being outshot 17-3 to finish the period. The Flames then came out roaring in the second period as they have before and were able to take the lead back thanks to goals from Milan Lucic and Mikael Backlund. After a bad start, the team was buzzing in the second period and completely outplayed the Oilers, finishing the period with a 12-4 edge in scoring chances.
The Flames still need to find a way to play a full 60 minutes as it will continue to cost them the rest of the season. Calgary was able to come away with the win on Saturday as their offence stepped up in the final two frames and goaltending continued to be solid.
The Flames were able to overshadow their slow start as they got much needed secondary scoring from the Backlund line. The line was able to score less than two minutes apart thanks to great plays from Andrew Mangiapane, who assisted on both goals. He was able to keep control of the puck down low and dish it to Lucic who found the net. Then on a flip pass, Mangiapane was able to catch it in the neutral zone to create a two-on-one with Backlund who beat Mikko Koskinen.
After being dormant for three games against the Winnipeg Jets, the Flames’ power play was able to find the back of the net again. This time it was the second unit that cashed in as Dube scored on a one-timer from Mark Giordano. It’s just the second time this season that the second unit has scored and it came on another Dube one-timer.
The two goals from the third line and the third-period marker from the second power-play unit really helped the Flames to the win on Saturday night. If Calgary head coach Geoff Ward sticks with the three sets of forward pairs, the Mangiapane-Backlund line will become a valuable asset if they can continue to produce.
Markstrom Weathers the Storm
Like he did in the Jan. 18 game against the Vancouver Canucks, Markstrom was able to hold off the Oilers, allowing just two goals against 17 shots. The Flames came into the second period only down 2-1 and were able to give Markstrom the support he needed. The Swedish netminder looked solid shot after shot in his ninth outing of the season and he was one of the Flames’ best penalty killers when it was needed.
Markstrom was rock solid in the first period when the team was barraged by the Oilers both at even-strength and on the penalty kill. It was even his first save of the game that led to the first goal. He made the blocker save giving up a rebound but it went right to Matthew Tkachuk who sprung Dube in transition.
It was the final six minutes of the game that Markstrom really shone as both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl did not leave the ice for the final 5:45 of the game. The Oilers threw everything his way but he stood tall and didn’t allow a goal at either 4v6 or 5v6 in the dying minutes. Markstrom once again lived up to his $6 million contract as he was a huge part of the Flames securing the win.
Flames Come Alive at Even Strength
The Flames came into Saturday night having scored 41% of their goals on the power play, but they were able to make an impact at 5v5. In the 10 games before Saturday night, the Flames were only able to score three even-strength goals just once in a game, which came in their 4-3 shootout win over the Jets.
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The Flames scored six even-strength goals combined in their three games against the Jets earlier in the week, but on Saturday the team put five behind Mikko Koskinen at 5v5. It started with Lindholm in the first minute, the third line in the second period, and then the first line contributed in the third. Johnny Gaudreau was able to get back on the score sheet after a one-game hiatus, scoring the game-winning goal and setting up Sam Bennett for the insurance marker. If the Flames can find the net at even strength as well as keeping their power play going, they will be quickly turning the ship around after a bit of a slow start to the 2020-21 season.
One of 10 Battles
The Flames were able to hold off McDavid and company and walked away with a much-needed two points. Currently in the Scotiabank North Division, it looks as though it will be a real possibility of the Flames and Oilers battling for the fourth and final playoff spot. This will make every Battle of Alberta a crucial one if the Flames want to try and separate themselves from the Oilers in the standings.
They’ll need to continue to work on playing a full 60 minutes, since a team that includes McDavid and Draisaitl can really burn you if you let your guard down. For now, the Flames will take their two points and move on to their next game against Winnipeg, which may include the new challenge of Pierre-Luc Dubois.