The NHL’s first playoff Battle of Alberta in 31 years compensated for its long absence with an abundance of goals in the first game of the series.
Matthew Tkachuk scored a hat trick for the Calgary Flames in Wednesday’s 9-6 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1.
A total of 15 goals made it the highest-scoring playoff game involving the Flames and Oilers. It surpassed the dozen the two teams scored in Game 3 of the 1983 Smythe Division final.
“Strange game,” Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said. “We scored on our first two shots and there were probably six different games out there. Take the win. Move on.”
Blake Coleman scored a pair of goals for the Flames, who led 5-1 early in the second period. Rasmus Andersson and Andrew Mangiapane each contributed a goal and two assists to the victory.
Elias Lindholm and Brett Ritchie also scored for Calgary while goaltender Jacob Markstrom stopped 22 shots for the win.
Zach Hyman scored twice for Edmonton. Connor McDavid produced his fourth straight multi-point game in the playoffs with a goal and three assists.
Edmonton’s captain leads the league’s post-season points race with five goals and 13 assists.
WATCH l Flames defeat Oilers in high scoring Game 1:
Leon Draisaitl had a goal and two assists and Kailer Yamamoto and Evan Bouchard also scored for the Oilers.
Edmonton starter Mike Smith was pulled in the first period after allowing three Calgary goals on 10 shots.
Mikko Koskinen made 32 saves in relief.
“We fought back and made it a game, but we can’t feel good about that in any way because we scored six goals in game and found a way to not win it,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said.
The winner of the best-of-seven series advances to the Western Conference final.
Game 2 is Friday at the Saddledome before the series heads to Edmonton for Sunday’s Game 3 and Tuesday’s Game 4.
Teams that take a 1-0 lead in a best-of-seven series hold a series record of 503-232 (.684), according to NHL statisticians.
In a matchup of potent offenses, the question ahead of the series was which team could keep the puck on its sticks and spend more time in the offensive zone.
Calgary dominated that department early. The Flames scored twice in a 25-second span in the first minute and led 3-0 on Ritchie’s goal at 6:05 when Smith was replaced by Koskinen.
Calgary’s two goals in the opening 51 seconds were the fastest two goals to start an NHL playoff game, and electrified a sea of red dotted with Oiler orange and blue at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Oilers didn’t fold, however.
The Flames had survived a goaltender-dominated, grinding series with the Dallas Stars in the first round.
Wednesday’s Game 1 was, by contrast, a back-and-forth track meet with erratic goaltending. The Flames held a 40-18 edge in shots after two periods, but led 6-5 heading into the third.
Edmonton’s Yamamoto briefly tied the game at 1:28, before Andersson at 2:57 and Tkachuk at 8:55 restored Calgary’s lead.
WATCH l 9 Battle of Alberta moments…in 90 seconds:
Tkachuk snared a Draisaitl turnover at Edmonton’s blue line and scored on a breakaway between Koskinen’s pads for Calgary’s eighth goal.
“If you go down 2-0 before it hits the 19-minute mark on the clock, it’s obviously not a good start,” Draisaitl said. “Clearly we weren’t ready and it’s tough to play catch up for the whole night.
“We can all be a lot better away from the puck, and that starts with myself.”
Tkachuk’s empty-net goal to compete the hat trick made him the first Flame to score three goals in one playoff game in 26 years.
Hats rained down onto the Saddledome ice and chants of “we want 10” goals soon followed.
“Not good. Not good at all,” Tkachuk said. “Probably our worst game of the playoffs so far. We got super-lucky.
“That’s just not the recipe for success. Maybe we win this one, but we’re not going to win many more if we’re going to play like that.”
The game was reminiscent of Calgary’s 9-5 win over Edmonton at the Saddledome to conclude their regular-season March 26.
McDavid referred to that game as a “gong show” after Wednesday morning’s skateboarding. Their series opener didn’t lack entertainment either.
“Couldn’t ask for a better start, but you’ve got to have that killer mindset and you’ve got to be able to put teams down and keep pushing them down,” Coleman said.
“We made some mental mistakes in the second period, got away from our checking game a little bit. The good news is it’s correctable.
“That’s not our style of game, 9-6. It’s great that we got the Game 1 win but there’s a lot to dissect here and we’ll go to work tomorrow.”
The Flames were minus top shutdown defenseman Chris Tanev a second straight playoff game. He was injured in Game 6 of Calgary’s first-round series against Dallas.
Tanev skated in both Tuesday’s practice and in Wednesday’s morning skate, but didn’t dress for Game 1.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism