Tkachuk scores hat-trick as Flames wildly take Battle of Alberta Game 1

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk exchange words during the first period of Game 1 of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Flames won 9-6 on May 18, 2022.Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Conflict-wise, the first Battle of Alberta installment in 31 years was definitely of the Wild West shootout variety. Having scored just 15 goals in a seven-game opening series over the Dallas Stars, the Calgary Flames managed more than half of that total on Wednesday, outscoring their northern rivals in a 9-6 Game 1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Matthew Tkachuk notched a hat-trick and Johnny Gaudreau had three assists as the Pacific Division champions held on to draw first blood in the best-of-seven series. The game was the highest scoring playoff game since the Flames and Los Angeles Kings shared 15 goals in Game 6 of the 1993 division finals.

Despite preaching a defense-first system that allowed the third-fewest goals in the National Hockey League during the regular season, Flames head coach Darryl Sutter was able to find humor in the onslaught of goals.

“They told us it was a boring series last time,” he said after matching the late Pat Quinn with 94 playoff wins.

“So yesterday I told the players that they had to score seven to 10 goals today, knowing full well they would score five to eight and that’s what we would need to win, so that’s what they did.”

Edmonton captain Connor McDavid had a goal and three assists in his first career four-point game to increase his playoff-leading point total to 18 in eight games. Once both teams have had a chance to reload, they will meet again on Friday for Game 2.

“Obviously you’re not going to win a lot of games if you get scored nine times, there’s no secret to that,” Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said.

High winds around the Saddledome forced the cancellation of Wednesday’s Red Lot viewing party in the hours leading up to game time. While that potentially eliminated some of the one-day buzz that the province of Alberta had waited 31 years for and eagerly anticipated since Gaudreau’s overtime series winner against the Dallas Stars was set up, the atmosphere inside the Saddledome was al Red alive.

Flames legends like Lanny McDonald and Colin Patterson were in the crowd, while Ottawa Senators winger Matthew Tkachuk’s brother Brady was also on hand to help get the party started. Meanwhile, the in-house DJ was doing his part to fuel the anticipation, spinning ’80s hits like Phil Collins. in the air tonighta song that had its heyday just before the Battle of Alberta became a running issue.

After the morning skates, both teams had denied that the regular-season series, which was tied 2-2, had any carryover to the second-round series. Given the intensity of the playoffs, there was widespread denial that their most recent matchup, when the teams combined for 14 goals in a 9-5 win at Calgary on March 26, would be repeated. It turned out that they were absolutely right. . They would go one better.

It is not something they will seek to repeat.

“That’s not our style of play, 9-6,” said two-goaler Blake Coleman. “It’s great that we got the Game 1 win, but there’s a lot to dissect tomorrow.”

However, offense is only half the battle. One of the big questions that came up in this series was whether both goalkeepers could replicate their play from the first round.

Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom, who was nominated for the Vezina Trophy last week, had given the Flames a solid platform against the Dallas Stars, averaging a playoff-leading 1.53 goals-against average with a .943 save percentage. . Mike Smith, in the Edmonton net, had been almost as good, posting a .938 save percentage along with two shutouts, the most in the playoffs until the first round.

That question was answered within the first six minutes and five seconds, ending with Smith sitting at the end of the Oilers’ bench with Mikko Koskinen watching his first playing time of this year’s postseason.

During that spell, the Flames had torched Smith with three goals on just 10 shots, including two within the first 51 seconds. It went a long way to show that this would be a very different series than Calgary’s first round against Dallas, where the team had to wait until their third game, with 143 minutes and 40 seconds of playing time under their belt, before scoring. his third goal of that series.

On the first shot of the game, just 26 seconds later, Elias Lindholm received a pass from Rasmus Andersson, controlled a swinging puck and wristed it into Smith’s bag. Gaudreau, the Flames’ leading scorer in the playoffs, also had an assist on the play for his ninth point of the postseason.

The lead was doubled just 25 seconds later when Mikael Backlund passed the puck from behind the net to Andrew Mangiapane, who beat Smith with a simple wrist strike. The two goals within the first 51 seconds set a new NHL record for the fastest two goals from the start of a playoff game, surpassing two goals in 54 seconds by Mario Lemieux and Rick Tocchet for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993. Brett Ritchie joined the The flames begin to heat up with another just after the six-minute mark.

“If you lose 2-0 before it hits the 19-minute mark on the clock, it’s obviously not a good start,” Draisaitl said. “Clearly we weren’t ready and it’s hard to catch up all night.”

While it was difficult, with McDavid on a team it’s certainly not impossible. The captain scored in a solo effort shortly before the halfway mark and helped set the stage for a wild seven-goal second period.

Coleman restored the Flames’ three-goal lead in the 45th second and increased the margin to 5-1 with his second of the playoffs shortly after. But Edmonton began to inch back through Evan Bouchard and despite Tkachuk scoring his first of the night on the power play, two goals from Zach Hyman and another from Draisaitl with 38.1 seconds remaining in the frame had the Oilers shot.

A Kailer Yamamoto goal 1:28 into the third period threatened to grease the wheels for one of the biggest comebacks in NHL playoff history: only four teams have accomplished the feat after losing by four goals. But a wrist shot from Andersson, one of the three points he had on the night, and a breakaway from Tkachuk, where he took advantage of a turnover and beat Koskinen through all five holes, eased some of the anxiety. The Flames winger added an empty net for his first career playoff hat-trick, paving the way for a series-opening win.

“Not good,” was his reaction after becoming the sixth different Flames player to score a hat-trick in the playoffs, and the first since Theo Fleury scored four in a playoff game in 1995.

“We have to be better with the tracks. We had a four-goal lead twice; that should be enough for the playoffs.”

Markstrom finished with 22 saves on 28 shooting, while Koskinen finished with 32 saves on 37 shooting.

With both teams combining for just 18 penalty minutes through the first 59 minutes and the substitution, Milan Lucic and Zack Kassian took off their gloves, while Backlund and Josh Archibald also did the same just before the final buzzer.

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