After the opening 60 minutes of the latest iteration of the Battle of Alberta, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers could only shake their heads following a chaotic, high-octane Game 1 that saw the two clubs combine for a ridiculous 15 goals.
There may be no better microcosm of just how wacky playoff hockey can be, of just how frenetic the battles between Alberta’s two clubs can get, than that first game of the pair’s second-round series.
Six minutes into the game, the Flames held a 3-0 lead. Six minutes into the second period, Calgary had piled up five goals. Two minutes into the third period, the match was knotted at 6-6. The Flames won 9-6.
After a Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome saw the Flames and Oilers set records, the numbers pile up with reckless abandon, and fans throughout the province left in a tizzy, here’s a look at the wildest stats from Game 1:
Let’s start at the start. Fifty-one seconds into Game 1, both sides had a feeling it was going to be a strange night. Calgary’s Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane both put pucks by netminder Mike Smith in that opening minute, a pair of goals on the team’s first two shots of the game.
In doing so, Lindholm and Mangiapane combined to break the record for the fastest two goals ever scored to start off a playoff game. The previous best? Mario Lemieux and Rick Tocchet’s pair through 54 seconds back in Game 5 of the 1993 Division Finals.
In fact, the Flames’ two first-minute goals also broke the record for the fastest two goals ever scored to kick off a playoff game, by either team. The previous best was the pair of goals L.A. and Vancouver combined for in Game 2 of the ’93 Division Finals, with the Kings’ Mark Hardy and the Canucks’ Greg Adams each scoring in the first 52 seconds of the tilt.
They also ranked as the third-fastest two goals scored to start any period in a playoff game, bested only by Pat LaFontaine’s 35-second pair to start off a third period in ’84, and Pittsburgh’s Martin Straka and Alex Kovalev sniping twice in the first 40 seconds of the third back in ’99.
But historic as it was, the Flames are no strangers to quick starts this season. Game 1 marked the sixth time during this campaign that Calgary has hit twine on their first shot of the night.
Pulled after allowing three goals through his first six minutes in the net, Mike Smith’s numbers at the Saddledome continued to take a turn for the worst. Over the veteran’s past five starts at the Dome, he’s posted an .852 save percentage and a 5.22 goals-against average.
MCDAVID COMES ALIVE
Though the first period was a horrific one for the Oilers faithful, they found a bit of hope to cling to a minute and a half after the Flames’ third goal.
As always, it was Connor McDavid who began pulling Edmonton back. The captain showed some all-world patience as he took a pass at the net front, floated left to right, and slipped it five-hole for the Oilers’ first tally.
Sitting comfortably atop the leaderboard as the league’s playoffs scoring leader with 18 points through eight games, that goal extended McDavid’s post-season goal streak to four games. The last time an Oiler managed such a streak?
It was in 2006, the last year the Oilers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final — Michael Peca and Shawn Horcoff both managing four-game goal streaks during that run. The longest in Oil history was Esa Tikkanen’s six-game stretch back in 1990.
The Flames opened the second period with yet another overwhelming start.
Forty-five seconds in, it was Blake Coleman tallying. Six minutes later, he bagged another. Those two goals, his first in the playoffs as a Flame, matched the number of playoff tallies he scored through four seasons as a New Jersey Devil, and sit just one shy of the total he put up during his 2021 championship run with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
His quick pair also made Calgary just the fourth club in NHL history to score three opening-minute goals in any playoff game. The others: Vegas in 2019, Pittsburgh in 1993, and Boston in 1981.
On the other side of the ledger, Zach Hyman did his part to drag the Oilers back into the fight, scoring twice in that hectic second period (which saw seven goals amassed overall).
Hyman’s output in Game 1 of this series eclipsed his goal total for any of the five playoff runs he went on with the Toronto Maple Leafs, all of which saw him post just one goal through the series. All told, the winger’s got four to his name through eight playoff games as an Oiler.
CLOSER THAN EXPECTED
Asked to describe the rollercoaster night once the dust had settled on a Game 1 that saw Calgary pile up a 5-1 lead, wind up in a 6-6 tie, and finish with a 9-6 win, Flames head coach Darryl Sutter put it as well as anyone could: “There was probably six different games out there.”
The third period delivered as much drama as the opening frames. Kailer Yamamoto kicked it off, scoring a minute and a half in to earn that hard-to-believe 6-6 tie.
Setting up the goal was, of course, McDavid. With that final point of the night — his fourth in the game — the Oilers captain became just the fifth player in NHL history to record seven multi-point efforts through his first eight games of a playoff run. Fellow Oiler Glenn Anderson managed the feat as well in ’87 — the others: Denis Savard with Chicago in ’85, Tony Currie with the Blues in ’81, and Darryl Sittler with the Maple Leafs in ’77.
Already in elite company in countless different ways, McDavid can add this to the pile: with all the high-flying scorers who’ve suited up for the Flames and Oilers over the years, and all the bloated scores that dominated the early days of the Battle of Alberta, McDavid has the third-highest point-per-game pace through the provincial rivalry, his 1.38 in games vs. Calgary sitting behind only Calgary’s Guy Chouinard (1.46) and The Great One, Wayne Gretzky (2.21).
Unfortunately for McDavid, a minute and a half after he and Yamamoto linked up on the tying tally, Calgary’s Rasmus Andersson sniped one to restore the Flames’ lead.
Matthew Tkachuk — who was at the core of the festivities as always, gnawing on his gnarled mouthguard at the centre of more than a few scrums — then iced it, scoring the final two goals of the game to secure a hat trick and a win.
Tkachuk’s trio made him the first Flame to score a playoff hat trick since Theo Fleury back in ’95, and just the sixth player in franchise history to ever accomplish the feat. The others: Mike Sullivan (yes, that Mike Sullivan) in ’95, Hakan Loob in ’88, Doug Risebrough in ’86, and Paul Reinhart in ’83 and ’84. Tkachuk’s hattie was the first from a Flame in a Battle of Alberta playoff series since Reinhart’s ’83 trio.
Here’s another one, making clear how the Flames’ depth is coming up bigger right now than it has ever before — with multi-goal efforts on Wednesday, Tkachuk and Coleman became the first Flames teammates to ever score two goals in a Battle of Alberta playoff tilt.
FLAMES — 1, OILERS — 0
All in all, the Flames and Oilers finished the night with 15 goals between them, combining for the highest-scoring playoff game in Battle of Alberta history.
The unforgettable series opener was the first 15-goal playoff game the NHL has seen in nearly three decades. The last? A 9-6 win by the Los Angeles Kings over none other than the Calgary Flames back in Game 6 of the ’93 Division Semifinals. The win clinched the series for the Kings.
Whether that counts as a good or bad omen for these Flames remains to be seen. For now, Calgary heads into Game 2 with one win in the bag, while Edmonton looks to regain their footing when these two teams meet next. They’ll have their work cut out for them at the Dome, though — through every Battle of Alberta tilt this season, the home side’s come out with the W.
Game 2 goes Friday at 8:30 p.m. MT / 10:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW.
All statistics courtesy of the NHL and Sportsnet Stats.