CALGARY — After challenging his team to be better, Mike Smith went out and led by example.
Smith made 28 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and Johnny Gaudreau had the only goal as the Calgary Flames edged the Edmonton Oilers 1-0 on Tuesday night, ending a seven-game losing streak against their provincial rival.
"Smitty is a real, fiery competitive guy and we wanted a different mindset coming in," said coach Glen Gulutzan. "If you’re a guy like him and you’re competitive, you’re going to say things and you want things, and it’s going to be good for our group that he’s backing them up."
After practice on Monday with the team reeling from Sunday’s disappointing 5-2 setback to the New York Islanders, Smith was vocal about how everyone had to step it up.
"It starts with your play on the ice. It’s hard to talk in the room and to (the media) when you don’t go out there and do your job," Smith said. "It starts with yourself, taking care of what you can control."
The commitment to preserving the one-goal lead was especially evident in the final minute. With Edmonton on a power play and goaltender Cam Talbot pulled to make it a 6-on-4, Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan and Michael Frolik all blocked shots.
"To see guys lying down, blocking shots, guys getting over the red or the blue and dumping pucks in. We had one-goal lead and we were riding our goalie and we felt that we didn’t need to win the game 5-0," said Flames defenceman Travis Hamonic. "We know that come playoff games, this is how you win games. Close scores like this."
It was a superb bounce-back performance for Smith in his second game after missing a month with a lower-body injury. He had been beaten four times on 26 shots on Sunday.
"He’s a very vocal guy on our team and he’s one of our leaders and sometimes when you put yourself out there and say those things, you know you’re going to follow it up with a good game yourself and everyone’s going to follow suit," said Hamonic.
Calgary (35-26-10) remains within two points of both Dallas and Colorado, who occupy the two wild card spots in the Western Conference. The Flames are also within two points of Los Angeles for third in the Pacific Division.
Cam Talbot made 31 saves as Edmonton (30-35-4) had its three-game win streak snapped.
"After last game they weren’t too happy with their performance so we knew we were going to get their best tonight," said Talbot. "We knew we were going to get a desperate team that needs every point possible."
The most dangerous Oiler all night was Connor McDavid, who entered the night on a seven-game point streak (six goals, seven assists) and with 18 goals in his last 19 games. But despite a team-high five shots and several other set-ups, he could not solve the 35-year-old.
Smith’s best stop came early in the third, acrobatically kicking out his pad to rob Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ one-timer after he was set up perfectly by McDavid.
"We’d like to score some goals but we created chances. Even at the end with the goaltender pulled we had some good looks at the net," said Edmonton coach Todd McLellan. "Not overly disappointed in the effort. I’m disappointed in the outcome."
Scoreless after the opening 20 minutes, Calgary took the lead at 5:18 of the second period when Sean Monahan’s pass found Gaudreau alone in front and he zipped a backhander over Talbot’s shoulder.
Gaudreau’s 22nd goal of the season extends his point streak to five games (two goals, five assists).
Notes: Calgary made two line-up changes at forward with Drew Shore and Chris Stewart inserted for Matthew Tkachuk (upper body) and Mark Jankowski (coach’s decision)… Kris Versteeg (hip) missed his 49th game for the Flames but he’s nearing a return and could play as soon as Friday… Former Flame Mike Cammalleri, who played in career game No. 900, has gone 30 games without a goal.