The Calgary Flames opened their 2021–22 campaign exactly how they have opened their seasons since the beginning of time: by losing a season opener. Seeing that the NHL schedule put the Flames’ first game against the Edmonton Oilers, it was a given that the Battle of Alberta would open up with an advantage for the Oilers . The Flames’ 81-game season official starts with a home opener against the Anaheim Ducks on October 18, 2021. Alas, here’s how the season opener—a game definitely worth isolating from the rest of the Flames’ season—went down.
In the first period, there was pressure from the Flames but it’d be the Oilers that got ahead 2–0 after 20 minutes of play. In a devastating heartbreaker of a way to let in their first goal of the season, beloved former Flame Derek Ryan was perfectly positioned in front of Jacob Markstrom to tap the puck in against his team of yesteryear.
Things became heated between the provincial rivals and a questionable play by Rasmus Andersson by means of what looked like a headbutt on Kailer Yamamoto led to a double minor assessed against the Flames defender. It didn’t take long for Connor McDavid to take advantage and get his first goal of the season off of heavy power play puck movement in the Flames’ zone.
In the second period, more penalty trouble for Calgary led to a third goal against. With Milan Lucic in the box for tripping, McDavid scored his second of the game with a one-timed slapshot. The momentum at this point turned in favour of the visitors who were trying to claw their way back into the game.
At the midpoint of the frame, Andrew Mangiapane scored the Flames’ first goal and he absolutely deserved the honour. He was by far the best player on the ice for Calgary and it wasn’t particularly close. Throughout the game, he was the most noticeable for all the right reasons, seemingly taking his IIHF MVP performance and putting it right into NHL action. With the Flames down 3–1 at this point, they continued to press but weren’t able to get any more goals in the second.
Come the third period, the Flames was looking to mount their first comeback of the season and not all hope was lost. Five minutes into the period, Elias Lindholm scored on the power play to pull the Flames back within one goal. Unfortunately, the hope that came to be quickly dissipated as Jesse Puljujarvi scored 26 seconds later to restore the two-goal Oilers lead. With time winding down in the game, McDavid capped off the game with a hat trick courtesy of an empty net goal.
Overall, the Flames ran into some issues with their combination of 11 forwards and 7 defencemen—and by game’s end, Oliver Kylington played a criminally low 3:27 with his sixth shift being his last, coming midway through the second period. Further, their penalty problems were not great. Going into a game against the league’s best power play, discipline means everything and the Flames didn’t exercise much of it.
That said, the Flames didn’t look like a team that retreated into a shell of themselves as they did many times last season. They kept the pressure on and in the end, the Oilers won this game on special teams play, led by McDavid, as well as via Mike Smith stopping 45 of 47 shots against.
Calgary falls to Edmonton, 5–2 final score. Game visualisations are below.
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