Let’s not wait another 31 years for the next one. The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers’ first elimination game lived up to the wait.
Everything a hockey fan could want was packed into the 65 minutes of hockey at the NHL’s oldest rink.
Nine goals. Multiple posts. Some big saves and heavy hits. Blistering back-and-forth action and hold-your-breath moments. And, of course, sudden-death overtime.
Unfortunately for the Flames, Connor McDavid’s quick strike five minutes into the overtime period meant the death of a stellar season. It was even tougher to swallow after Blake Coleman thought he’d won the game for the Flames — twice — late in the third period.
The first was called back after a lengthy review, with the league determining Coleman kicked the puck — which was already headed across the goal-line — before it counted. Then with seconds left, the Flames winger raised his arms in celebration after a shot in tight but Mike Smith had slammed his pad against the post in time to keep the effort out of the net.
Neither goalie seemed willing to allow another puck past them over the final 20 minutes of regulation.
The first period was a chess match, with the Flames controlling the play and exiting the opening frame with the only goal (Andrew Mangiapane). They looked worried about making the first mistake, but that fear flew out of the building by the end of the second.
Insane second period sees NHL playoff record
The Flames extended their lead and jumped out 2-0 a little more than five minutes into the middle period. Things got crazy from there. Darnell Nurse and Jesse Puljujarvi answered back quickly, scoring a little more than two minutes apart to even things up 2-2.
That wasn’t the crazy part.
Zach Hyman’s eighth of the playoffs and sixth of the series triggered a record-breaking sequence no one has ever seen in the NHL post-season. People were still watching the replay of Hyman’s goal when Johnny Gaudreau finally found a way to beat Mike Smith 15 seconds later to tie things. Calle Jarnkrok finally scored his first as a member of the Calgary Flames to give them a lead just 16 seconds after that one. Then Evan Bouchard beat Jacob Markstrom with a bomb from the point 40 seconds later to knot things at four apiece.
All told, that four-goal spree came in a span of 71 seconds – setting a new NHL playoff record.
It was a period for the ages.
Gaudreau, Tkachuk still struggling to find mojo
Markstrom made some huge stops to preserve the lead as the Oilers pressed but a long shot from Nurse found the net after Leon Draisaitl fended off Mikael Backlund’s check and found the defenceman in prime shooting position.
Markstrom made another big save on a Draisaitl shot set up by a sneaky Connor McDavid drop pass.
At the other end, Smith was intent on stoning Gaudreau, who went two games without a point and hadn’t scored all series as he constantly found Smith’s glove or blocker.
Much has been made about the Calgary Flames’ top young players struggling and Matthew Tkachuk found himself on the wrong side of the puck on the first tying goal, watching as the Oilers three-on-one was tapped home by Puljujarvi.
The wild period nearly continued its frantic scoring pace after the explosion, but a stellar stick check by Elias Lindholm on Hyman broke up a shorthanded breakaway at the last second. And Mangiapane, who opened the scoring in the first period, rang one off the crossbar late.
Back to a chess match in the third, with everything on the line for both teams.
A spinning backhand by Hyman hit a post, which was the Oilers’ best chance to end it.
Until their captain finally did.