If you can’t beat ’em, fight their goaltender!
FINAL SCORE: CALGARY FLAMES 3, EDMONTON OILERS 2
— OilersNation.com (@OilersNation) March 31, 2018
The lovely folks over at Nation HQ made their annual epic Alberta road trip tonight, leaving me in charge of the game!
Things started off on a high note for Edmonton, when Anton Slepyshev opened up scoring just over two minutes into the first period. In true Mike Smith fashion, the Flames starter went behind the net to play the puck, coughed it up to Zack Kassian, and ended up sprawling just wide of his left post while Slepyshev took advantage of a wide-open net for his sixth of the year:
From there, though, things would head downhill fairly quickly.
In a span of just under nine minutes through the middle of the first period, Cam Talbot would allow goals by Dougie Hamilton, Garnet Hathaway, and Mikael Backlund, immediately going from a one-goal lead to a two-goal deficit with over five minutes still left to go in the period.
Sekera provided a bit of a screen for Hamilton on the first goal, which would be the former Bruins first rounder’s 17th of the year, but Talbot remained off-angle to allow the puck to beat him cleanly high glove-side – and with a nasty short-side goal on a poor power-play turnover for goal number two and poor lateral movement to prevent goal number three, Talbot’s night was done.
From there, Montoya would manage to hold off the Flames through their lethargic, sporadic offensive campaign down the final two and a half periods of play. Despite facing just 13 shots (not always the easiest rhythm to get into when coming in cold), he would turn away all of Calgary’s attempts to record his own partial-game shutout.
The Oilers would only manage to convert on one more shot the rest of the game, though, and Calgary would take home the win in regulation. After Mike Cammalleri’s redirection mid-way through the second period, Smith would lock things down and skate away with his first two-point game since March 13th.
This game was a perfect example of when goaltending lets you down.
Although the game was fairly evenly matched in the first period shot attempt-wise, Edmonton turned on the offensive Jets for the rest of the game.
When Calgary scored their third goal, they were only ahead on shot attempts by 13-10 – and Edmonton would finish the game with 62 shot attempts to Calgary’s 39 (and 36 total shots to Calgary’s 20).
With a .571 save percentage through the first seven shots on goal against, though, Talbot just wasn’t crisp enough to kick things off – and while Calgary has been on the receiving end of that more than a bit lately, this time it burned the Oilers.
THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
As much as I want to give the game highlight to Zack Kassian – in some way, somehow – it has to go to Milan Lucic, who proved that he’s not *entirely* wasting his contract when he went head-to-head to fellow overpaid league veteran Mike Smith after the mercurial goalie lost his head:
Mike Smith and Milan Lucic getting after each other. pic.twitter.com/98q3wE1YlI
— Evan Sporer (@ev_sporer) April 1, 2018
Poetry. Absolute poetry.
Lucic wouldn’t record a single shot on goal all night, but this almost, kind of, sort of makes up for it.
- Coming into this game, Mike Smith hadn’t posted a save percentage above .900 since his 28-save shutout win over Edmonton two weeks back. Maybe he just has the Oilers’ number, but his strong performance on Saturday was enough to give his team every chance to win the game – despite getting peppered with shots down the final stretch. Why he does this to Edmonton, I don’t know, but I dislike him as much as the rest of you do.
- Connor McDavid didn’t manage to record even a secondary assist on the night, posting the fourth-worst Corsi For percentage on the team at even strength. He had a nasty shot beat Smith only to get stopped by the crossbar, though, and STILL remains the league leader in the Art Ross race even with a scoreless game tonight. He’s not going to get as many Hart Trophy votes as he deserves, and people are going to point to games like this as a reason, but it’s time to keep an eye on Colorado; if Nathan MacKinnon can’t will his way into the postseason with 14 million injuries to his teammates in Denver, there’s zero excuse not to just hand the award right over to Connor.
- Lucic had himself one hot mess of a night, going full-on bear on the Flames during one of the chippiest third periods the Battle of Alberta has seen in a while (oh, who are we kidding: that was about par for course, wasn’t it?). But in a night where Zack Kassian was involved in both of the team’s goals (and he’s already just three tallies of his own behind Lucic)and put up over three more minutes of ice time than the team’s top-dollar UFA signing, it continues to grow harder and harder to figure out what to do with the once-highly-regarded power forward. In another lost season, I know a lot of people were excited by his passion and physical force in fights against both Mike Smith and Tanner Glass – but when it comes right down to it, that was an ugly game to watch from a guy making $6 million per until 2023.
- Down in Arizona, Zac Rinaldo had a goal of his own. Apparently, if you’re a loose cannon with an alternate spelling of the name Zach, tonight was your night. Hoo-ah!
Mike Smith steals other people’s shrimp fried rice.
— Ryan (@IAmByks) April 1, 2018