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Battle of Alberta Lives Up to Hype in Game 1 of Second Round

Photo by Sergei Belski

Battle of Alberta Lives Up to Hype in Game 1 of Second Round

The opening game of the best-of-seven second round playoff series between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers included a little bit of everything. Serving as the first occurrence of a postseason battle of Alberta in 31 years, the provincial rivalry certainly lived up to the hype on Wednesday night.

With the teams combining for 15 total goals, 28 penalty minutes and three different goaltenders on the night, things were far from ordinary ever since opening puck drop.

“Strange game,” Flames’ head coach Darryl Sutter said post-game. “We scored on our first two shots and there were probably six different games out there.”

Yes, Calgary pulled ahead 2-0 just 51 seconds into the game – an NHL postseason record – before grabbing a three-goal lead just 6:05 into the contest. That spelled the end of the night for goaltender Mike Smith, who actually wasn’t charged with the loss, thanks in large part to the multiple comebacks by his team and the poor play of his replacement Mikko Koskinen.

“It was 9-6, so, I mean, it’s not an ordinary game,” Flames’ forward Blake Coleman said. “Maybe it’s the buildup of 30 years or whatever it’s been for this rivalry. A lot of excitement, a lot of jump. But if our team’s going to be successful, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

It was anything but a coach’s dream. With all defensive structure seemingly going out the window, Calgary watched as its 5-1 lead became 6-2, and then collapsed for what became a 6-6 tie game just over a minute into the third period. But thanks to Matthew Tkachuk’s hat trick, the result of the game did not go down as one of the largest come from behind losses in Flames history.

And despite giving up six goals, Jacob Markstrom seemed to bounce back after the slew of second period goals, picking up the win with 22 saves on just 28 Oilers shots.

“Markstrom gives us tons of confidence,” Tkachuk said. “He said before the third, ‘You guys keep doing your thing, I’m going to shut the door for you,’ and that’s exactly what he did. He’s been our MVP all year. It’s on us for pretty much every goal that went in earlier, whether it was turnover or not working or just mental mistakes.”

Zach Hyman, Leon Draisaitl, Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid each had multi-point outings in the loss, while Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Blake Coleman, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane and Rasmus Andersson did the same for Calgary. 12 Flames players registered a point in the game.

The second game of the Battle of Alberta goes Friday night in Calgary. If the opener was any indication, this series will be as high-flying and entertaining as ever. Get your popcorn ready.

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