Everyone expected the Battle of Alberta to be must-watch hockey, but who could have predicted how Game 1 went down? In what was a dizzying turnaround from the first round, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers opening clash in the playoffs delivered and then some.
The Flames set the NHL record for quickest two goals to open a playoff game, taking just 51 seconds to beat Mike Smith twice. Elias Lindholm opened the scoring in the game’s first shot at the 26 second mark, and Andrew Mangiapane followed suit just 35 seconds later. Then the Flames got up by three goals just past the six minute mark thanks to a goal from Brett Ritchie.
The goal was enough for Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft to put in Mikko Koskinen, making Smith take the record for the fewest minutes played by an Oilers goaltender in a playoff game before being pulled.
Soon after, the Oilers responded with a goal coming from no other than Connor McDavid to cut into Calgary’s lead. The opening period saw both teams going zero-for-two on the power play, which included a questionable call going against Milan Lucic for roughing.
The next two goals in the game came early in the second, both coming from Blake Coleman. He scored 45 seconds in the middle frame and then again at 6:10.
Then the two teams traded goals with Evan Bouchard scoring and Matthew Tkachuk responding on the power play. Just like that the game was 6–2 and the Flames were looking to be in a controlling position in the game.
However, the Oilers scored three straight goals that beat Jacob Markstrom‘s glove, the first two from Zach Hyman, and then the final one from Leon Draisaitl with just 39 seconds remaining in the second.
The 11 goals in the game made it the highest-scoring game of the playoffs so far, and it’s fitting that it only took the Battle of Alberta two periods to reach that mark.
Shots were 40–18 for the Flames. Two playoff trends from Round 1 were broken for Calgary in the game with one, goals finally started going in on the opposing net, and two, easy goals that should’ve been saves going in on the Flames’ goaltender.
Just 1:28 into the final period, the Oilers tied it up with a goal from Kailer Yamamoto. After trailing for over 40 minutes of play, the Oilers tying the game at 6–6 was virtually unthinkable. The crowd, the Flames, and the hockey world at large were all shocked.
However, the Flames responded to break the tie with Rasmus Andersson scoring just before three minutes elapsed and Calgary was back on top.
A few minutes later, the Flames had Oliver Kylington in the box for holding, and simultaneously Evander Kane and Tkachuk out for roughing as well. The Flames then started to play 5-D chess. Instead of having Kylington return to the ice after the Oilers power play expired, Tkachuk ended up coming out of the box. It was an extended duration without a whistle, so Kylington and Kane were both held in the penalty boxes waiting for the next stoppage.
The next stoppage of play was in fact a Tkachuk goal. The 5-D chess move fortuitously paid off and the Flames got back ahead by two. The play kickstarted with the Flames pressuring in the offensive zone, but the Oilers gained possession and were exiting into the neutral zone. Draisaitl’s pass went off Jesse Pljujarvi’s skate back into the Oilers’ zone with Tkachuk being the last Flame out.
Instead of Tkachuk having to clear the blueline to not go offside, he had a breakaway that turned into a goal. The play was still valid based on Rule 83.2:
Time wound down in the game and the Oilers pulled Koskinen for the extra attacker. Tkachuk scored his third of the night on the empty net for a playoff hat trick! Flames led with 9–6 with just over two minutes to go, and that’d end up being the final score.
What a way to start the Battle of Alberta.
Check out the data visualisations from the insane Round 2 opener below!
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