Flames shut down McDavid in Battle of Alberta
The Calgary Flames may not believe in statement games, but they made one on Monday night.
With a 3-1 win over their provincial rival Edmonton Oilers, the Flames helped cement their status as a Western Conference contender. It wasn’t expected to be easy with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl coming to town.
The Oilers duo are lethal weapons against the Flames, especially on the powerplay. They’re the biggest reason the Flames had yet to win one of the previous two Battle of Alberta contests this season.
But the Flames shut McDavid and Draisaitl down by playing them hard. Defencemen Oliver Kylington and Noah Hanifin did solid work in keeping the generational talents from getting too many good looks around the net. Every forward matched against them made sure to grind against them.
In the end, the two Oilers stars combined from just two shots at even strength and only a handful of shots in all situations.
The Calgary Flames penalty killers were difference makers in a game that head coach Darryl Sutter said looked like both groups were struggling with fatigue.
“I don’t know if we did anything different that we normally do. We put a lot of pressure on them in key areas – entering the zone.” Sutter said on Sportsnet 960. “They didn’t get much time in the zone.”
Tyler Toffoli scored a pair of goals – his sixth and seventh with the Flames after the early NHL trade – including the winner. Johnny Gaudreau added a late insurance marker with a beautiful finish on a breakaway. His speed left Darnell Nurse in the rearview and his move left goalie Mikko Koskinen’s groin on the ice.
“I think our top guys looked tired tonight and we’re having to use everybody,” Sutter said of the line changes, which saw Toffoli alongside rookie centre Adam Ruzicka and flanker Mangiapane.
“I don’t think their top guys were on the top of their games either.”
Oilers looked tired, Flames played them tough
The Oilers were home for one game after a lengthy road trip before hopping to Calgary. The Flames are in a stretch of five games in seven nights.
“It’s hard on players,” Sutter said of a grinding schedule for both teams. “Those guys that play big minutes all the time, it’s hard on them.”
That fatigue speaks volumes of the Flames’ ability to overcome different challenges over the past couple of months. They’re 12-0-1 at home in their last 13 contests at the Dome. Planted firmly in first place in the Pacific Division.
Of course, their goals are loftier than that, as winger Blake Coleman reminded everyone after the morning skate:
“If we win the division, great, but our goal isn’t to win the division, it’s to bring a Cup to Calgary.”