There have been more thrilling Battles of Alberta.
But when the Edmonton Oilers skate away from The Saddledome with 2 regulation points, who’s complaining? Especially when that win comes despite 0 points from Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl or the Oilers Power Play, which went 0-2.
Meanwhile, the stingy Oilers defensive play and their grizzled goalie allowed just 5 shots and 0 goals in the 3rd Period respectively to help seal the 2-1 victory.
Here’s the tale of the tape.
Edmonton Oilers Game Grades
MIKE SMITH. 8. Had very little work in the first 10 minutes. But was up to the task in the next 10, where the Flames had their best sequences of the night. The first was a big one off a Tkachuk blast from the high slot. Then, after a Bouchard turnover, Smith stuffed Sam Bennett. And the trifecta came on the PK a few minutes later when Lindholm threatened on the man advantage. That 3rd chance could have allowed the Flames to tie the game up heading into the locker room after 20. A significant stop at a significant time. Smith saved 20 of 21 for his 4th win in 5 outings. Has a SV% of .940. We all predicted that, right?
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS. 5. Very quiet on offence, including a frustrating night on the Power Play. But the veteran turned in a sterling defensive effort, particularly in the 3rd period. That included a key shot block late in the game. Played a minor role on the 1-0. Had two takeaways as well.
JESSE PULJUJARVI. 7. The Oilers best forward tonight. Jesse potted the 1-0 after collecting a pass from Tyson Barrie in the slot and drilling it home as 4 Flames looked on. Puljujarvi now has 5 goals in his last 7 games. That’s a nice little run, no? Involved in 2 others chances with McDavid and Barrie as well. Won a heavyweight board battle on his own zone with Milan Lucic that really impressed me. A 1st Period give-away was one of the few blemishes on his game. Really solid overall.
DARNELL NURSE. 8. Darnell Nurse is merging as a legitimate top-pairing NHL Defenceman. Played 30:01 to lead the team in TOI, over 4 minutes of that on the penalty kill. A big shot block on that critical 3rd Period PK was the highlight for me. That was one of 4 blocks, also a team best. Darnell also earned an assist on the Puljujarvi goal. Just the 1 hit for Nurse in a game that wasn’t particularly physical. But Nurse looked large and in charge practically every time he was on the ice.
LEON DRAISAITL. 5. Leon Draisaitl had a gaping-wide net but his shot ticked off the goalie’s stick and clear. A nice cross-ice feed to Barrie late in the 2nd but Tyson couldn’t cash. 2 shots on net. 54% on face-offs including a giant win late in the game, and a zone clear with the Flames net empty to put out the last Flames flicker of the night. Not much on offence, solid on the other side of the puck.
TYLER ENNIS. 4. Not much doing tonight. 0 points, just 1 shot. A neutral zone turnover in the 1st, 1 of 2 on the night.
KAILER YAMAMOTO. 5. No points and no shots on net. But when a player has an evening like that, they ask what you did on the other side of the puck. I saw a very strong play along the wall late in the game, battling until Larsson showed up to clear it to safety. An excellent 3rd Period back check. Etc.
ADAM LARSSON. 8. This D-pairing was excellent, arguably the club’s best on this night. Adam Larsson had 3 hits and a block in 24:10. That included a highly effective 2:59 on the PK. A terrific play to erase Gaudreau along the wall on a 1st period encounter. Set up Draisaitl for the missed chance the Leon will see in his sleep tonight. This is a version of the Adam Larsson we watched his first 2 seasons in Edmonton. More, please.
JUJHAR KHAIRA. 6. Disciplined defensive game, especially in the neutral zone where Khaira thwarted a number of Flames sorties. He and Archibald teamed up for a critical clear on a 3rd Period PK. 2 late 3rd Period intercepts in-between the bluelines. J.J. isn’t known as a whiz in the circle but was 60% on face-offs Friday. 2 shots, 3 hits, a perfect 2:40 on the PK. On a really solid run.
JOSH ARCHIBALD. 5. Robbed on a late 2nd Period chance. A smart D-zone clear in the dying seconds. A clean slate from 2:45 of PK work. A rare night without a single hit.
DOMINIK KAHUN. 5. He was better this evening. 2nd Period shot block led to a Russell clear. Found some clear ice, took his time and delivered a dangerous shot at the Calgary net in the 2nd. But played just 8:32, with no PP or PK time.
SLATER KOEKKOEK. 6. Played just a tick more than his young partner, at just 9:16. A hit, 2 blocks, and a take-away. Nothing flashy, just got the job done.
EVAN BOUCHARD. 5. Very lightly used, just 8:23 of TOI. Had 2 shots (one an impressive blast), an un-flattering 1st Period turnover, and went +1.
GAETAN HAAS. 7. The Oilers 4th line were their best trio tonight. Gaeten Haas scored the eventual winner by first going to the net on the feed from James Neal, and then stopping at that same net to deposit the loose puck behind the Calgary goaltender. Did fail to get the puck out with clear possession, leading to a Flames chance. 2 shots, a hit, a block, 2:20 on a PK that went 0-2. he’s not coming out anytime soon.
JAMES NEAL. 6. Fed Evan Bouchard for a 1st Period shot, then the same duo teamed up again in the 3rd. Combined with Hass to create a 2nd period chance for Koekkoek. James Neal was on for 50% more chances for than against. After that bout with COVID, the rest & rehab seems to have done him a world of good. Neal some extra juice tonight. A very effective game for the veteran who looked like he did in the Chicago series.
ALEX CHIASSON. 6. This line pinned the Flames deep in the own zone with just minutes left to play, allowing Tippett to get the McDavid line out for an O-Zone draw. Chiasson’s smart play up the left-hand side eventually led to the 2-0. All Events CF of 15-8, 65%. Part of a PP that struggled. But this smart player very rarely costs his club on the other side of the puck. Whistled for the flimsiest of hits in the 3rd Period.
The victory draws the Oilers up into sole possession of 2nd spot in the Canadian Division. Their 20 points are still 6 shy of the Leafs, but 2 up on the Habs. More importantly, perhaps, it’s a 5-point bulge on Calgary.
Next up? The rematch, tomorrow at Rogers Place. A regulation would stretch that difference to 7.
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