It wasn’t the Calgary Flames starting Dan Vladar, or the Edmonton Oilers putting Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid on different lines.
The only glaring error surrounding the Battle of Alberta on Saturday night is the fact it’s only going to happen two more times in the regular-season. The NHL schedule-makers messed that one up.
It was the kind of game you could watch again. Physical. Fast. Intense. Teetering on explosive. One goalie was a surprising start, the other was pulled early — his replacement up to the challenge of the unexpected entry as well.
In the end, the Calgary Flames escaped hostile territory with a 4-3 victory.
And what a journey it was.
The Flames outshot the Oilers 42-29. And while Vladar wasn’t as busy as his counterparts Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner, he was a rock in the blue paint.
Vladar made the net look small. He was aggressive but composed and carried his stellar play in the preseason right into his first start with points on the line.
In similar fashion to their season-opener at the Saddledome, the Flames carried the play early. Their up-tempo, aggressive forecheck and tight checking game led to a 4-1 lead a little more than 10 minutes into the game.
Oilers defenceman Cody Ceci’s blast was the only blemish for Vladar in the opening 20 minutes.
Flames’ early outburst enough to beat Oilers
Mikael Backlund, Michael Stone, Nazem Kadri and Andrew Mangiapane all scored their first goals of the season in the opening 10:18.
That chased Campbell from the net. Enter Skinner, who may turn out to be the goaltender the Oilers have been hoping to land the last couple of years. Skinner shut the Flames out the rest of the way, giving his team a shot at completing the comeback.
They came close.
The Oilers push came in the second period — aided by a powerplay at the midway mark.
With Blake Coleman in the box for hooking Leon Draisaitl, McDavid went to work with Evander Kane and Draisaitl. They connected, with McDavid depositing the puck into the net before an outstretched Vladar could reach it.
Ryan McLeod scored on a one-timer in tight to make it a one-goal game going into the third.
Following their goaltender’s lead, the Flames showed no panic. And if not for Skinner could have piled up a few more goals. At one point, they had 10 shots in the frame before the Oilers got their second.
And when Vladar had to be sharp, he was. Especially in the dying seconds with all the Oilers stars swarming.
It’s a shame we will only witness two more of these battles over the next 80 games.
We’ll have to hope they meet again in the playoffs.