Oilers hold off Flames after nearly blowing big lead
The Edmonton Oilers survived a huge scare Saturday, and still continue to own their provincial rival.
The Oilers, up by five early in the third period, surrendered four goals in a span of 7:12 before a lucky goal helped them hang on for a 7-5 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Edmonton has now won six straight against Calgary.
Jesse Puljujarvi led Edmonton with two goals. Jujhar Khaira, Mark Letestu, Milan Lucic, Pat Maroon and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also scored for the Oilers (11-14-2). Lucic also had two assists.
“The last few games we’ve kind of got contributions from just about everywhere and last year that was one of our calling cards so it’s nice to get a lot of offense tonight,” said Letestu, who scored on a short-handed breakaway. “We’d like to tighten it up a bit but a win’s a win. We’re not going to gripe about winning hockey games.”
Sam Bennett (two), Michael Frolik, Micheal Ferland and Johnny Gaudreau scored for the Flames (14-11-1).
Bennett (twice), Ferland and Gaudreau scored within a span of 7:12 in the period to get Calgary back in the game but defenseman T.J. Brodie knocked Nugent-Hopkins’ pass into his own net to end the suspense with 1:01 remaining.
The Flames weren’t mentally ready to play, according to their coach.
“What concerns me is with this group, on the mental side of the game, is that flight, fight or freeze mentality,” Glen Gulutzan said.
“We seem to freeze a bit until something good happens and then we can start to move. That is something we’ve got to address.”
The Oilers have won three of four, and their only loss was a frustrating 6-4 defeat at the hand of the Toronto Maple Leafs at home Thursday that ended with Edmonton’s Kris Russell scoring the decisive goal into his own net with just over a minute to go.
“I think our resilience right now is really good,” Nugent-Hopkins said.
“Other than tonight, we’ve been down in every game for the past three and the way we fought back has been a really good sign for us. It’ something we did really well last year. We wouldn’t just give up and go away. It’s something we’ve got to continue to do, but if we have a lead again like this tonight we want to be able to still play solid.”
Oilers regular backup Laurent Brossoit made 29 saves for his first win in eight games. He’s taken over for injured No. 1 Cam Talbot, who is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.
Mike Smith surrendered five goals on 27 shots and was replaced after the second period by David Rittich. Smith has started 23 of Calgary’s first 26 games.
Puljujarvi opened the scoring at 10:31 of the first. Connor McDavid fed Drake Caggiula, who missed the net. The puck bounced off the boards to Puljujarvi and he backhanded it past Smith.
His second came 4:04 later when a shot from the point hit his ankle and found the net. The young Finn has four goals in 10 games since being recalled from the American Hockey League.
The Flames got on the board with a short-handed marker at 16:21 of the first. Mikael Backlund picked Matt Benning’s pocket, raced in on a two-on-one with Frolik, who buried the pass.
Khaira made it a two-goal game again 1:23 later with a snapshot through Smith’s pads from the slot.
Smith faced three breakaways in the second period and stopped two of them. The one he didn’t was Letestu’s short-handed marker at 3:40.
“Way too many chances against tonight, way too many,” Flames captain Mark Giordano said.
“I think we gave up four or five breakaways. They just feed off transition and turnovers. We hung our goalie out to drive and made a good push in the third but one bounce cost us.”
Lucic deflected a point shot in with 22 seconds left in the period to put the Oilers up 5-1 and Maroon made it 6-1 early in the third on a wrap-around.
Bennett scored from a bad angle from the boards at 5:04 and Ferland got the Flames to within 6-3 on a wrister 3:09 later.
Bennett burst down the left wing and put a shot over Brossoit’s shoulder with 8:21 left and Gaudreau scored his 12th of the season with 7:40 to go.
NOTES: Flames RW Kris Versteeg will have hip surgery Monday in New York. He suffered a labrum injury Nov. 24 in Dallas. ... Oilers D Adam Larsson missed his third straight game because of an upper-body injury. He is not expected to miss more than a week, Oilers coach Todd McLellan told reporters Friday. ... Oilers RW Liro Pakarinen cleared waivers Saturday and was assigned to the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League. ... Edmonton healthy scratches were LW Anton Slepyshev, D Ryan Stanton and D Yohann Auvitu. ... Not dressed for Calgary were C Curtis Lazar, C Freddie Hamilton and D Matt Bartkowski. ... Flames undrafted captain Mark Giordano will play his 700th game Monday, when the Philadelphia Flyers visit Calgary.