Oilers show true resolve to even series with Flames

CALGARY, AB - MAY 20: Connor McDavid #97 (L) and Mike Smith #41 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate after defeating the Calgary Flames in Game Two of the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome on May 20, 2022 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Oilers defeated the Flames 5-3. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - MAY 20: Connor McDavid #97 (L) and Mike Smith #41 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate after defeating the Calgary Flames in Game Two of the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome on May 20, 2022 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Oilers defeated the Flames 5-3. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Stay weird, Battle of Alberta.

In a far more reasonable but still unbelievably entertaining contest, the Edmonton Oilers mounted — and this time completed — a rousing comeback, evening their second-round series at a game apiece with a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 2.

Zach Hyman scored the go-ahead goal near the midway mark of the third period on a shorthanded rush after the Oilers fell into multi-goal deficits twice in the game. Leon Draisaitl poured in a game-high three points with an insurance marker to go along with two assists, while Connor McDavid added to his highlight reel — and postseason-leading point total — with another sublime goal and fantastic set-up in the victory.

Mike Smith bounced back after a horrendous showing in Game 1 — and slow start in Game 2 — making 37 saves for the win.

As much as it was about superstar play, it was also about resolve for Edmonton — which was dealt its fair share of adversity in the game.

The first example of which was Smith conceding two goals in just over six minutes to start after being pulled for allowing three goals inside eight minutes in Game 1.

It wasn't a compete meltdown from a goaltending perspective, as the Oilers failed to do him any favours defensively in a shaky string of first shifts, but it looked like the same story was being written when an uncontested Erik Gudbranson shot slipped under Smith's arm for Nick Ritchie to bang home to double the Calgary lead.

Edmonton did find its bearings before the first period was up, pulling to within one when McDavid steered a one-handed pass into the path of Duncan Keith to hammer past Jacob Markstrom on an Edmonton cycle.

But just as the Oilers were beginning to turn things around, they were knocked back down by a quick whistle from the officiating crew.

It appeared as though Hyman had tied the game, or at least created the scenario for which the Oilers would, steaming down the wing and causing a scramble in front. But while it seemed the puck crossed the goal line twice, the officials ruled that they were in the process of blowing the play dead. The Oilers seemed sure it crossed the first time, and before the whistle had sounded, but the goal they were celebrating was denied on the ice by a simultaneous whistle, and then again after a curiously quick review, seeing them to the intermission down one anyway.

Referee interference would come back around again, but there was another moment of karmic fortune first — this time in favour of the Flames.

After Darnell Nurse broke his stick on Tyler Toffoli's shoulder with a cross check, the Flames used the fact that Edmonton's No. 1 defenseman was left disarmed to their advantage on a power play to begin the second period. Working the puck on the side Nurse was scrambling to cover, Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm combined to transfer the puck to the weak side for Toffoli to hammer home.

Edmonton managed two immediate answers after Toffoli restored the two-goal advantage for the Flames, but only one of which would count.

The misfortune continued momentarily for Edmonton when McDavid turned on the burners to beat Noah Hanifin to the front of the net. McDavid was stopped when he reached the crease, but the puck skipped out for Draisaitl to chip into the net. However noticing that McDavid's skate helped pull Markstrom out of position, Flames coach Darryl Sutter challenged the goal, promptly dropping the Oilers to 0-2 on goal reviews in the game.

As though the disallowed goal didn't happen in a moment that seemed to reverse the fortunes, McDavid immediately hit back after the challenge, scoring one of the goals of the postseason so far.

Collecting a loose puck in the offensive zone at four aside, he fought off the check of Nikita Zadorov and worked a two-man game again with Keith to put himself in position to leave no doubt versus Markstrom.

Edmonton was still one short despite having two goals on the board and another two called back. While spending the majority of the remainder of the second period on the power play, the Oilers finally broke through when the second unit, and more specifically Evan Bouchard, scored on a four-minute advantage after Kailer Yamamoto drew a high-sticking major on Michael Stone.

Deadlocked deep into the third period, it was a Flames power play which would eventually set up the Edmonton breakthrough.

After a questionable penalty assessed on Warren Foegele near the midway mark of the third period, Hyman provided the Oilers with their first lead of the series — and the Flames more comeuppance — with a brilliant individual effort shorthanded.

Draisaitl found the same sort of space, and finish, scoring on a breakaway of his own to kill much of the intrigue late a little more than two minutes after the Hyman goal.

Calgary was denied one themselves on a quick whistle while pressing in final moments, drawing level with the Oilers on goals prevented by officials' interference.

Taking the series back home level at a game apiece, the Oilers managed to score 11 goals in two games at Scotiabank Saddledome and, maybe more importantly, lulled the Flames into a brand of hockey that favours them. The games have skewed far from the norm, and helped create these uncommon conditions, but it's clear that the Oilers have some seriously favourable matchups versus the Flames with Chris Tanev out with injury, of which can be further exploited on home ice.

And when those matchups can't come together organically, Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft can lean on his strategy for Game 2, which was to empty the tank of his top forwards.

McDavid, Draisaitl, Hyman, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each logged more than 21 minutes in the game, while the Oilers bottom-five forwards in terms of total ice were reduced to nine or less.

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