Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall choreographed an electric go-ahead goal with only 1:17 remaining, propelling the Edmonton Oilers to a well-earned 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames Saturday night at Rexall Place.
Calgary was put on the power-play only 26 seconds into the game when Oilers netminder Nikolai Khabibulin was assessed a tripping minor. The Flames could only muster one shot on the opportunity, keeping the game scoreless past the six-minute mark.
As the midway point approached, Khabibulin came up big. Some sloppy 'D' zone coverage by Cam Barker and Kirill Tulupov helped the Flames choreograph a pair of high-quality chances. The Oilers' 'tender stopped them both, including what appeared to be a sure-goal rebound opportunity by Flames rookie Sven Baertschi.
That sequence helped spark the home side. At 10:59, a strong push by the Oilers caused Flames rearguard Anton Babchuck to take a tripping penalty, putting Edmonton on the power-play.
With 12 seconds remaining in the attempt, Ryan Keller was sent off for interference, putting the teams on a brief four-on-four period before the Flames settled back on the man-advantage.
Like the Flames' previous chance, a goal could not be recorded.
As time expired to end the opening period, the game remained in a 0-0 tie but the Oilers held a slim 6-5 edge on the shot clock.
With 13:25 remaining in the period and on the Flames' 10th shot, Khabibulin came up huge once more. An ill-advised turnover by Antti Tyrvainen allowed Calgary to walk in, but the Oilers veteran turned the initial shot and a quick rebound opportunity away.
1:10 later, the Oilers turned the puck up-ice on a dangerous rush, but it was Edmonton who incurred pain. Sam Gagner went crashing into the end-boards and stayed down for several minutes. Following a quick assessment by Head Athletic Therapist TD Forss, Gagner skated away under his own power.
At 8:16, Calgary broke the game's goose-egg. Rene Bourque skated up the middle, stepped across the line and wired a slapper past Khabibulin to put the Flames ahead 1-0.
Moments later, the Oilers went on the power-play when Flames centre Ben Walter was charged for tripping at 8:50. The opportunity passed without incident and Calgary's 1-0 lead carried through second's 10-minute mark.
Up 14-12 in shots, the Oilers went back to the advantage with 7:47 on the clock when Baertschi was called for tripping. Once again and much to the dismay of the Rexall Place crowd, Edmonton couldn't cash during the two-minute power-play.
Calgary nearly went up 2-0 with three minutes to play, but Khabibulin's blocker-side post and scrambling teammates helped preserve the current score.
Cam Barker took a late-period unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, sending the Flames back to the power-play at 18:52. While shorthanded, Ryan Jones was sprung on a breakaway by Andy Sutton. No. 28 broke in, deked Leland Irving backhand and pulled the Oilers even with only 7.8 seconds to play.
Once Barker's penalty was killed, Anton Lander curled behind his own goal to start the breakout; instead, he turned the puck over to Baertschi in the slot. The Flames rookie had a clear view on net, but Khabibulin made a dazzling glove snag to keep the game knotted at one.
Then the Oilers went on the attack. On a slow-speed partial two-on-one, Teemu Hartikainen dished to a streaking Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The 2011 No. 1 overall pick cocked his weapon and unleashed a quick snapshot, but Irving's near post denied the young rookie.
As the third's midway point passed, the game remained in a 1-1 score, but the Oilers held a 23-16 shot advantage.
With 6:40 remaining, Calgary was charged with having too many men on the ice. Looking to strike for the go-ahead marker, Edmonton went back to the power-play. Sadly for the home team, not much was generated and the 1-1 score stayed on the board.
That is, until Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall orchestrated the game-winning goal. With only 1:17 on the clock, Nugent-Hopkins' shot was stopped by Irving, but the rebound opportunity sat at the goal-mouth. Hall pounced, sliding the puck past Irving for the 2-1 tally.
Time ticked away as the Oilers concluded the evening with a 2-1 victory and 29-17 edge in shots.
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