Edmonton Oilers' defence steps to forefront in 2-1 win over Calgary Flames

·3 min read
Edmonton Oilers' defence steps to forefront in 2-1 win over Calgary Flames

CALGARY — The Edmonton Oilers relied on defence instead of their scoring stars to beat the host Calgary Flames 2-1 on Friday.

Gaetan Haas scored the eventual game-winner in the second period and Jesse Puljujarvi scored his fifth goal in his last seven games for Edmonton (11-8-0).

Oilers goaltender Mike Smith turned away 20 shots for his third win in four starts.

The NHL's top two scorers — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl respectively — were held without a point.

Edmonton's defence felt to be a weakness at the start of the season was stout Friday.

"We'll take the points any way we can right now," Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "Probably wasn't our prettiest win, but sometimes it's going to go down like that and you've just got to grind it out.

"I thought Smitty and our D-corp was really solid tonight. Not giving them too many good opportunities.

"This is going to be tight-checking division when it comes down to it. I know it's been kind of high scoring, but it's not always going to be like this."

Defenceman Rasmus Andersson scored for Calgary (8-8-1).

David Rittich made 23 saves in his third start of the season.

The Flames gave Jacob Markstrom a breather after he started seven games in a row and 14 of Calgary's first 16.

The Oilers knotted this season's Battle of Alberta at 1-1 ahead of ahead of Saturday's rematch in Edmonton.

The Flames prevailed 6-4 in the first of their 10 meetings in the North Division on Feb. 6.

The two clubs combined for over 100 minutes in their final clash last season, but the provincial rivalry has been slow to boil in 2020-21.

Calgary and Edmonton combined for five minors Friday. The Flames went scoreless on three power-play chances and the Oilers went 0-for-2.

After Wednesday's 5-1 loss at home to the Vancouver Canucks, Flames head coach Geoff Ward said he wanted more emotion from his squad. He felt there were small gains in that area Friday.

"We've got more to give for sure," Ward said. "It was a step in the right directions, but we can still be better."

"We've got to find a way to generate a little bit more in terms of pushing ourselves forward. At points there was some (emotion). At other points we need to have more desperation still.

"There wasn't a lot of ice out there for sure. We know how to play to get through it. It's just a matter of putting our minds to it and getting it done."

Haas made it 2-0 for the visitors at 17:55 of the second period. Andersson halved the deficit 45 seconds later.

Calgary centre Sean Monahan was scratched with a lower-body injury, which shifted Johnny Gaudreau to a line with centre Elias Lindholm and right-winger Dillon Dube.

Gaudreau deked Tyson Barrie in the corner and dished to Andersson to beat Smith's glove with a wrist shot.

Rittich made the initial save on Haas, but was tangled with a prone teammate Noah Hanifin when Haas chipped the puck over the goalie's right pad on a second effort.

Calgary trailed after the first period for the 10th time in 17 games.

Barrie skated the puck down low to stretch Calgary's defence and fed an all-alone Puljujarvi on Rittich's doorstep at 5:41 of the first period.

Flames forward Sam Bennett didn't play in the third period and totalled six and a half minutes of ice time in the game. Ward declined to say why.

Bennett's agent said last month the forward was unhappy with his role on the team.

Notes: Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse played 30 minutes in the game . . . Edmonton forward Zack Kassian was scratched for a fifth straight game. He hasn't played since fighting Ottawa's Erik Gudbranson on Feb. 8.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press