It’s truly the wild, wild west. The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers didn’t score another 15 in Game 2. But if not for the scores that didn’t count, they might have come close.
The final was a 5-3 win for the Oilers, who evened their first-round series and stole home-ice advantage as they head to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.
But both teams felt like they were robbed by the referees. And on at least a couple of those instances, they were probably right.
Down 2-0 early in the first period, the Oilers thought they cut the lead in half. But the puck was briefly hidden under Jacob Markstrom and the whistle was blown – or at least the intention was that the whistle was about to be blown – to kill the play.
Trailing 3-1 in the second period, Leon Draisaitl scored on a rebound created by the relentless Connor McDavid. But again, the goal didn’t count. McDavid’s charge to the net brought him through the blue paint. He made significant contact with Markstrom and pulled the goalie away from the loose puck and a quick review led to a reversal on the call.
“Just trying to take the puck to the net. Beat my guy and take the puck to the net,” McDavid said of the interference goal. “It’s the same old story. You never really know. But they deemed it that way and that’s the way it goes.”
The Oilers captain was determined to get it back and scored moments later himself with a perfect finish on a sick give-and-go play set up by his strength and skill on the puck. Alone in front, he finished with a few quick flicks of his stick to beat Markstrom.
“I’m always hungry to make a play,” McDavid said of the quick response. “I’m just happy to be able to contribute.”
The Oilers weren’t the only sufferers of nullified goals on the night, however.
With roles reversed and the visitors leading for the first time in the series so far, the Flames fell victim to an early whistle on the powerplay.
The Flames gave up three straight and were trailing 4-3, including a shorthanded goal just moments earlier, when winger Tyler Toffoli got his eyes and stick on a loose puck in the crease as it trickled past Mike Smith.
The whistle, though, ended the play before the puck was batted into the net.
“You look at it and it’s a goal,” Sutter said post-game. “But I did hear the whistle prior.”
The quick whistles were a wash, but there were plenty of other unfinished chances for the Flames on the night.
“We missed a lot of opportunities tonight,” Sutter said. “I think Markstrom was really, really good for us. I think their individual skill stood out tonight on situations that they scored on. That’s hard to handle.”
Especially when those players with that high-end skill are able to establish themselves on the powerplay.
The men in stripes were noticeable all night, with players on both sides parade to the penalty box. But the Oilers had more than 10 minutes of powerplay time and their stars enjoyed grinding the Flames down.
Evan Bouchard was the only Oiler to actually score on the man advantage, tying the game at 3-3 15:03 into the second period with a slapper set up by a suddenly spry looking Duncan Keith. The fits and starts of five-on-five hockey play much more in Edmonton’s favour than he Flames’.
“That’s definitely to their team’s advantage,” said Sutter. “They’re a high-scoring team. The individual skill sets for them can win hockey games. That was the difference tonight.”
The easy answer to the discipline problem?
“Stay out of the box,” Sutter said.
The Calgary Flames got off to another hot start. Three minutes in, Michael Stone scored on a trademark rocket from the point to get the home side on the board first again.
Brett Ritchie scored in his second straight game by driving to the net for a rebound and beat Smith at 6:02.
Keith scored his first of the playoffs as the beneficiary of a great play by McDavid to make it 2-1 after 20 minutes. Toffoli scored on a Calgary Flames powerplay a couple of minutes into the second to restore the two-goal lead before the Oilers finished with four straight goals to lock up the result.
Zach Hyman’s shorthanded breakaway goal midway through the third was the game-winner. Smith’s long backhand pass to Draisaitl, who also found himself in alone on Markstrom, added the insurance a couple of minutes later.
“It was an exciting game,” said Sutter. “If we’d have won it, I’d be really happy”