The Edmonton Oilers almost let a 3-0 lead evaporate late in the third period after the Calgary Flames scored two goals and cut the lead to 3-2. Jesse Puljujarvi quickly took care of any glimpse of hope the Flames just got and got one right back, holding on for the victory in the first installment of the Battle of Alberta this season.
These games between the Oilers and Flames were bound to be more exciting, with fans back in the building at full capacity. It kicked off with a bang with high intensity and a lot of physicality as we had all waited for and expected.
Jesse Puljujarvi Stepping Up
Puljujarvi is already showing why he is a permanent fixture on the top line beside Connor McDavid and either Leon Draisaitl or Zach Hyman. In the two games thus far, he was in on all the action tonight, scoring a goal and adding two primary assists, both to McDavid. He was given more time on the power play, having the sixth most power-play time on the team this game with 1:32. The spot he is trying to fill is Hyman’s in front of the net. Overall, he didn’t get the most time on ice in this one, but he took advantage of his chances and made plays offensively.
Darnell Nurse Logs More Big Minutes
It seemed like Darnell Nurse didn’t leave the ice again for the Oilers. He logged 27:47 of ice time in this one, being heavily counted on for much of the time shorthanded in Calgary’s four attempts on the power play. He and Evan Bouchard both played over four minutes killing penalties and were very efficient for the most part. He also saw a little time on the power play, making quick work of his time out there assisting on the Oilers’ second and final power-play goal of the night.
It makes you think Nurse will eventually tire over the course of an 82-game season playing as much as he does. He didn’t show any signs of slowing down after 56 games last year, but he may get some help throughout in the way of Bouchard and Duncan Keith. It helps that he isn’t relied on for power-play minutes on top of everything else he does to get some rest here and there.
Mike Smith Holds Oilers in Game Again
Once again, the Oilers allowed too many shots against Mike Smith, but to his credit, he shut the door and played amazingly. He stopped 45 of 47 shots faced, only allowing one at even strength. For any doubter of his that says he can’t replicate the season he had last year and it was just a fluke, he’s well on his way to proving you wrong.
Related: Oilers’ Mike Smith Is Showing That Age Is Just a Number
Smith is now 2-0 on the season and holds a 1.92 goals-against average (GAA) and a .958 save percentage (SV%). I know it’s early, but starting the season on a high note is cause for less concern than looking shaking early on like some other goalies so far this season.
Oilers Third Line Very Noticeable
The third line of Zack Kassian, Warren Foegele, and Derek Ryan didn’t miss a beat in last night’s heated battle and they were rewarded for their play. Oilers head coach Dave Tippett played them a lot at the expense of the Oilers’ fourth line. Kassian (14:02) was hitting everything that moved, recording six hits on the game sheet and stirred the pot early with Flames’ defenceman Nikita Zadorov.
Ryan (14:59) scored the first goal of the game, assisted by both of his linemates. He also played the most out of the Oilers’ forwards on the penalty kill. Foegele (13:06) was right around the net, driving pucks into the danger zones where he likes to be.
No. 1 Power Play Continues to Score for Oilers
The Oilers were 50% on the power play in game one of the season, scoring one goal on two attempts. They picked up right where they left off, this time doubling the goals in twice as many attempts. Both power-play goals were scored by McDavid with four different Oilers recording assists.
The power play clicked at an incredible league-leading 27.6% last season and 29.5% the year before, good for first in the league each season.
Connor McDavid Scores Hat Trick
McDavid continues to torch the Calgary Flames in the Battle of Alberta. Courtesy of Sportsnet Stats, McDavid’s three hat tricks vs the Flames is a new franchise record. Not only that but he now has the sixth most multi-point games in franchise history in games against the Flames with 11.
To break or hold a franchise record is one thing, but to do it with a franchise as prestigious as the Oilers is another. To make it even sweeter, it’s against their provincial rivals. It was also McDavid’s 10th hat trick of the regular season in his career. Two of his goals came on the man advantage, while he solidified the hat trick and game with an empty-net goal.
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The Oilers are off to a nice start, and on top of their top-six scoring, like they normally do, the team is getting help from a hard-working bottom-six. The special teams have just continued to roll and they will need them to if they want to compete for the division that looks a bit more up for grabs.