Zack Kassian and Matt Benning mark their returns to the Oilers lineup in a spirited Battle of Alberta that went in favour of the Calgary Flames in the shootout on Wednesday
EDMONTON, AB - You could pre-write the game script for the Battle of Alberta as well as you'd like.
But sometimes, it just unfolds better than expected.
"It's fun when you're playing games that matter, and tonight was one that mattered for sure," captain Connor McDavid said post-game. "The crowd felt that, both teams felt that, and it was fun to be a part of."
The third rendition of the Battle of Alberta lived up to the hype on Wednesday night at Rogers Place, needing all 60 minutes, an end-to-end overtime, and the shootout for the Calgary Flames to walk away victorious 4-3 and win their third-straight provincial duel.
Mike Smith made 25 saves on 28 shots, making a handful of game-saving stops for the Oilers as the netminder had his five-game winning streak snapped at the hands of his former side.
"We got a point, there's going to be some highs and lows, and we have to stay even-keeled throughout these 33 games here," Kassian said.
An 11-day break for the Oilers provided plenty of build-up to this critical Pacific Division bout and the first of two clashes between the Flames and Oilers in four days, but three-hard days of practice before tonight couldn't shake the rustiness in Head Coach Dave Tippett's in the opening 10 minutes.
"You worry about that, but you hope you can overcome it with three days practice, but we weren't crisp with the puck early on," Tippett said. "Smitty made some big saves on the mistakes we made."
Zack Kassian returned to the lineup with a new four-year contract before puck drop and from a two-game suspension to settle his score with Matthew Tkachuk in the opening five minutes after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins unexpectedly drew the first bout of the evening with Sean Monahan in front of the Oilers bench.
"(Kassian) means a tonne to our group," McDavid, who posted an assist, said post-game. "He's a vocal guy in our room, brings the emotion, brings the intensity each and every night, and I'm glad he's going to be here a long time."
The Flames would draw first blood just over a minute into the contest after Elias Lindholm sent a pass from inside the circle towards goal that deflected off Adam Larsson's stick in front.
"I thought a little bit of a flukey one to start there puts us behind the eight-ball, but I thought we did a good job battling back to earn ourselves a point and lose in a skills competition," McDavid said.
A cagey first 20 minutes opened up into a cascade of offence in the middle frame, with Kailer Yamamoto finishing a quick move following a face-off with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins before Alex Chiasson dropped to one knee to fire home his seventh of the campaign and square the scoreboard at two on the power play.
Andrew Mangiapane's second of the night in the final minute of the second period gave the Flames a 3-2 advantage leading into the final stanza.
Defenceman Matt Benning's return to the lineup after missing two months with a concussion was marked with a fantastic individual effort, turning Noah Hanifin and tucking the tying goal under David Rittich with 8:11 on the clock, to send the Battle of Alberta into sudden death.
Both netminders came up massive in extra time as we'd need the shootout to decide who'd come away with the extra point. The Oilers cracked the post twice and Monahan fired five-hole the game-winner on the first attempt before Rittich's poke check on Draisaitl was the decisive blow.