The Edmonton Oilers were in Edmonton to take on the home Calgary Flames for their one and only exhibition game before the NHL’s qualification rounds begin on Saturday. A win would be a feather in either side’s cap but the primary objective for both teams had to be getting through this particular 60 minutes without any injuries.
Mikko Koskinen got the start in net for the Oilers, with former Oiler Cam Talbot getting the nod for Calgary.
The Oilers started this one very much on the front foot, and were rewarded for their early jump with a goal just past the one minute mark.
Art Ross winner Leon Draisaitl picked up the loose puck inside the Calgary blue line before finding Tyler Ennis to Talbot’s left. He found a streaking — and wide open — Oscar Klefbom in the high slot. Klefbom fired one on target and Talbot fought it off, but Kailer Yamamoto was there to clean up the rebound and score the Oilers’ first goal in literal months. 1-0.
Edmonton continued to press after their goal and eventually drew a penalty, albeit in their own zone. The Oilers’ historically good power play hopped over the boards and wasted little time extending the lead. The puck worked around the Flames zone before Draisaitl threaded an absolute peach of a pass through to McDavid on the doorstep to gather and tap in. 2-0. Poor Talbot.
Moments later, Zack Kassian introduced himself to Erik Gustafsson wall with a sturdy hit along the wall. Gustafsson lost his lid but tried to play the puck and was caught for cheating, putting the Oilers on the power play once again. Edmonton couldn’t capitalize this time.
The Oilers took a couple penalties of their own in the last five minutes of the frame, but Koskinen and the PK were up to the task. One of the penalties, James Neal’s, came after he two-handed Matthew Tkachuk between the shoulder blades in retaliation for a hit he didn’t like. You love to see it, honestly. That one came with less than a minute left, too.
Otherwise, the Oilers were full value for their lead in the first. Yamamoto, Draisaitl, and McDavid looked good. As did Ethan Bear. Philip Broberg looked well and truly out of his depth, but in his defense he was paired with Kris Russell for most of his shifts. That’s tough sledding for anyone.
The Oilers started P2 shorthanded thanks to Neal’s aformentioned axing of Tkachuk. The Flames couldn’t generate much though, and the few half-chances they did cobble together were turned aside by Mikko Koskinen, who looked mostly great tonight but for one chaotic sequence that Broberg heavily featured in.
The Oilers killed the penalty and then drew one of their own a couple minutes later. This time, the Flames were able to give them something to think about shorthanded, testing Koskinen a couple of times before Edmonton settled down and generated a few looks of their own. No damage, but that first unit PP is good TV, folks.
After failing to get another on the man advantage, the Oilers influence began to wane and the Flames started to play better. Koskinen was called upon a few more times but stood tall, ultimately stopping all 19 shots he faced before swapping with Mike Smith about halfway through the frame.
Smith was tested almost immediately, too, but made a lovely snag from a good look in the high slot on the first shot he faced.
Calgary was definitely the better side for most of the second period, and late, with Calgary buzzing in the Oilers zone, Adam Larsson took a penalty trying to contain Milan Lucic. I know. Read it again. It happened.
The Flames would take advantage, too. With less than five seconds left — and Matthew Tkachuk interfering with Mike Smith — Elias Lindholm scooped a rebound up and over Smith’s left leg to put Calgary on the board. 2-1 after 2 periods.
The Oilers were mostly bad for the first 15 minutes of the third period. Luckily for all of us, that stretch coincided with the arrival of my late dinner. I’m working my way back into game shape too and I’d like to thank each and every one of you to give me a break on that.
One Oiler who was good during that stretch was Mike Smith. He made a couple of real nice stops including a worldie on a cross-ice feed from Dylan Dube. I believe it was Sam Bennett with the actual chance, but I was housing fries at that exact moment and I can’t say for sure.
Almost exactly after I finished eating, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins flipped a nothing puck toward David Rittich, who came in for Talbot when Smith relieved Koskinen. The puck took a funky bounce and threw Rittich off, which allowed Patrick Russell to pound home the rebound. There is some kind of cruel irony that Russell finally scored a goal for the Oilers in a game that doesn’t actually count, but at least he’ll have the memory. 3-1.
On the next shift, McDavid decided to try for maybe the first time all night. He effortlessly blew past Noah Hanifin along the near wall before threading a no-look shot through Rittich’s helpless, helpless legs. 4-1.
From there, Edmonton only had to see out two minutes to finish the bubble exhibition season a perfect 1-0-0, which they did without incident.
Both goalies were good tonight. The Oilers were good for about half of the game: the whole first, the first five minutes of the second, and maybe the last five minutes of what turned out to be garbage time. But none of that matters. What’s important, above all else, is that nobody got hurt. Josh Archibald winced a little after blocking a shot in the third but he finished the game. Kailer Yamamoto and Ethan Bear were impressive. Andreas Athanasiou is still trying to find it out there. Philip Broberg struggled. But again, all that matters is everyone’s OK heading into the weekend. Onward.
CF, FF, SF: ~48%
SCF, HDCF: ~33%