CALGARY, AB – The Oilers built a 2-0 lead on the Calgary Flames through two periods on Saturday night, but their provincial rivals came roaring back with four goals in the final 20 minutes to win 4-2.
Jordan Eberle got the Oilers on the board and then set up Benoit Pouliot to make it 2-0 for the visitors after the first. Then, following a scoreless middle frame, the Flames got two goals from Lance Bouma plus singles from Paul Byron and Sean Monahan to come from behind and win for the fourth time in four meetings with the Oilers this season.
“We knew the way they were going to come out and play in the third,” Eberle said. “They were going to stretch three and we had a couple of occasions where we dove in and gave them a couple of odd-man rushes or turned pucks over in the neutral zone. It sucks when you beat yourself, that’s the bottom line. It was simple mistakes. We shot ourselves in the foot tonight.”
“They came strong at us in the second and that’s where we started to smell it,” Coach Todd Nelson added. “We tried to put the breaks on and they just kept on coming, so you have to give them credit. Their defence pinched hard and they hemmed us in... A couple turnovers and the puck ends up in our net. We’ve got to learn from it and move forward.”
The Flames have been all about the late rallies this season, with a jaw-dropping nine of their wins coming from games where they trailed through 40 minutes.
“We stopped playing simple,” said Ben Scrivens, who turned aside 29 of 33 shots in the defeat. “You’ve got to give Calgary credit. They lead the league in third period comebacks and we just added to their total by not being ready to play in the third. I don’t know how many times we have to go through it before we learn our lesson.”
It was an eventful opening with a pair of Oilers even-strength goals as well as a pair of scraps. Eberle got the Oilers on the board at 2:43 before setting up Pouliot to make it 2-0 at 11:41, while Keith Aulie and Luke Gazdic each dropped the mitts for a fight.
The Oil got the exact start they wanted as Eberle put them up 1-0 less than three minutes into the game. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins won the faceoff straight to his right-winger and Eberle picked the top corner on Jonas Hiller through traffic for his team-leading 13th of the season. RNH and Eberle moved into the team points lead with 30 apiece.
About nine minutes later, Edmonton’s top line got the cycle going down low as Jeff Petry got the puck to Eberle behind the net and he found Pouliot on the doorstep. Benoit buried it top shelf on Hiller for his 11th of the year and eighth since returning from a broken foot on January 2. With the helper, Eberle took sole possession of the point lead with 31.
On the two first period fights, Aulie anticipated he’d have to drop the gloves tonight after he received a match penalty for a hit to the head on Calgary’s Matt Stajan during his last game on New Year’s Eve. His tussle with Brandon Bollig was more of a five-second wrestling match, but Gazdic and Derek Engelland tossed some serious haymakers on their scrap shortly after the ensuing faceoff.
The Flames finally solved Scrivens (who had made numerous highlight-reel stops) 2:56 into the third period as Mason Raymond circled behind the Oilers net, came out in front, turned and fired a shot through traffic that found the back of the net courtesy a Byron deflection.
Just 3:20 later, the Flames struck again and tied it up as they continued to sustain pressure in the Oilers zone. Bouma eventually got the puck with some time to Scrivens’ left and squeaked a wrist shot through the goalie’s pads for his seventh of the season.
Then, just 2:23 later with Derek Roy in the box for hooking, Monahan buried a loose puck in close to put the home side up 3-2. Bouma sealed the deal for the Flames with 3:33 to go in the third, ripping home the 4-2 goal for his second of the night on a feed from Mikael Backlund on a 2-on-1 rush.
The Oilers travel to San Jose after the game and their mini two-game road trip concludes on Monday night against the Sharks. The Pacific Division rivals have squared off three times so far this season, with the Oil winning 2-1 at home on Dec. 7 and dropping both games at the Shark Tank, 5-2 on Dec. 9 and 4-3 on Dec. 18.