It is advantage Calgary Flames after one game in the Battle of Alberta series this season.
Yes, after being made to wait a few weeks, we were finally treated to the first Battle of Alberta meeting of the 2020-21 NHL season on Saturday night between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames, and it certainly lived up to all expectations and all the hype.
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It was a game that had everything from the debut of the Flames’ Blasty Retro Reverse jerseys, more Connor McDavid excellence, a boatload of goals and some huge, huge moments for Calgary who won a critical game that both teams couldn’t really afford to drop.
There will be nine more meetings between these two heated rivals this season, and they could well end up deciding whether the Flames or the Oilers make it out of an ultra-competitive North Division and makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That was certainly the feeling on Saturday night with Calgary 4-5-1 and Edmonton 6-6-0 on the year prior to the game, with both teams underperforming in the opening weeks of the 2020-21 NHL season.
Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers combine for unforgettable first Battle of Alberta meeting
And if they are all as good as the first one then we will be in for a real treat. After all, the Flames and the Oilers combined for 10 goals, with five of them coming in a frantic and crazy third period that felt more like a heated Playoff game. We’ve come to expect a lot from the Battle of Alberta over the past couple of years and this one really didn’t disappoint.
It was seemingly advantage Edmonton after they dominated the first period, outshooting the Calgary Flames 17-3 and taking a 2-1 lead into the middle frame thanks to Connor McDavid’s power play goal, with the Oilers Captain taking a hard pass from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins before ripping a wrister past Jacob Markstrom.
Calgary, who welcomed the long-awaited return of Blasty in this game, and those uniforms looked great by the way, hit back in the second-period thanks to a line that combined for seven points (2 G, 5 A) on the night with Milan Lucic and Mikael Backlund lighting the lamp back-to-back. Those goals were huge given that it stopped the Oilers right in their tracks, and helped to settle the Flames into the game who had previously lost five of their last seven outings.
Backlund in particular had a big night with three points (1 G, 2 A), and it is exactly that kind of depth scoring that the Flames will need if they are to escape from a Division that will likely go right down to the wire. The Oilers also need secondary scoring and they did get it early in the third when Jesse Puljujarvi netted his third goal of the year.
Any Battle of Alberta showdown isn’t complete without some madness, however, and that certainly came in a crazy third period when both teams exchanged a flurry of blows with the action flowing for the entire 20 minutes. Dillon Dube converted on the power play to make it a 4-3 game before Johnny Gaudreau‘s seventh of the year, with the star latching on to a breakout pass from Sean Monahan before going top-shelf.
Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse did make it a one-goal game to set up a thrilling grandstand finish, but Sam Bennett, who was a healthy scratch earlier in the week and has been linked with a trade, came up clutch to put home Johnny Gaudreau’s no-look pass from behind the net to seal what was a massive win for the Calgary Flames and wrap up a hugely entertaining contest between two teams that don’t have a lot of love for each other.
Back when the NHL confirmed that there would be an all-Canadian Division for the 2020-21 season, focus quickly turned to the prospect of the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames slugging it out multiple times throughout the course of the year after this rivalry was really reignited over the past couple of years. We were given an ultimate treat with the schedule makers giving us 10 Battle of Alberta showdowns and, after the first game gave us incredible goals, a boatload of emotion and set the stage for what is to come for the rest of the season, it is safe to say that the first edition of the Battle of Alberta did not disappoint.