The 2020 NHL playoffs are underway. Night two welcomed the much-anticipated post-season rematch between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames, with the Flames edging their provincial rivals with a 3-1 victory in game one.
Both teams were on fire from the outset in tonight’s contest, trading blows from opening face-off. Calgary starter David Rittich was dazzling in net, demonstrating how he earned the nickname “Big Save Dave”. At the other end, Oilers starting netminder Mike Smith showed he was not yet ready to go quietly into the night.
The first period ended scoreless as the Flames racked up 10 shots on Smith, while Rittich turned aside 12 chances from the Oilers. Calgary wound up short handed 3 times in the first, while Edmonton sent a player to the sin bin twice.
Leon Draisaitl opened the scoring at 3:29 of the second frame with a wild rebound off of the end boards on a missed shot from the middle by winger Alex Chaisson. Calgary got that goal back at 12:43 on a pretty tic-tac-toe play by their top line consisting of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm.
The play that tied it up started off a give-away by the Oilers’ goalie Smith after leaving the crease to play the puck and attempting a clearing shot down the centre of the ice. Calgary Captain Mark Giordano intercepted the puck, keeping it onside in the Oiler zone before passing to his partner on defense, TJ Brodie.
Brodie got the puck deep into the corner where it was picked up by Gaudreau who stutter-stepped and embarrassed Oiler defenseman Kris Russell before dishing off to right wing Lindholmn standing at the faceoff dot to Smith’s left. With a no-look slap-pass, Lindholm set up Sean Monahan for his first of the playoffs who tipped the puck into a yawning cage despite a lunging attempt made by Smith. After the play Smith remained on the ice for an extended period with what appeared to be a lower-body strain. However the former All-Star goalie stayed in the game.
The second period ended in similar fashion to the first, with both teams tied and it stayed tied until the Flames capitalized on a four-minute powerplay. With Zac Kassian sitting in the penalty box serving a double minor for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct, Matthew Tkachuk scored an unbelievable goal on a wrap around back-hand snap shot, with the assists going to Derek Ryan and Milan Lucic while the Flames were in the middle of a line change.
Flames’ defenseman Oliver Kylington dumped the puck into the Oilers’ zone after picking up a deflected shot in Calgary’s end off Oilers’ Captain Connor McDavid. The puck crossed the blueline and was picked up by Ryan who made a cross-body pass to the left received by Lucic who dished into the corner. The puck was then picked up by Tkachuk who skated in behind and around the Oilers’ net, tracked by goalie Smith. Coming up around the net, Tkachuk faked a slap pass and snapped a rising back hand past and over Smith’s blocker at 14:55 of the third, putting the Flames up 2-1.
Late pressure from the Oilers saw David Rittich making save after save as the opposition came at him wave after wave. With the Flames’s netminder standing on his head, the Oilers pulled their goalie with 1:30 remaining in the third. Despite the added pressure with the extra attacker, the Oilers were unsuccessful in tying the game. Calgary tightened up defensively, stopping most shots from reaching Rittich.
One shot did get through to the goalie with 15 seconds remaining, however Rittich came up big with a paddle stop. Instead of freezing the puck, the netminder fired the puck up and along the boards where it was picked up by Andrew Mangiapane who fired it into the empty Oilers’ net and put the Flames up 3-1 with 6.5 seconds left in the game.
Three Stars of the night: Leon Draisaitl (3), Matthew Tkachuk (2), David Rittich (1).
Shots on net: Calgary 28, Edmonton 34
Game two of this best-of-five takes place Saturday April 11 at 8:00 PM