Sam Gagner records a goal and two helpers, with the Oilers special teams making its mark with a flawless night in a 6-2 win over the Calgary Flames
EDMONTON, AB - It was a special night.
The Oilers rode the success of flawless special teams on Friday, going 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins making good on their only power play of the night to extinguish the Calgary Flames 6-2 in a pre-season Battle of Alberta at Rogers Place.
After two power-play goals against derailed the Oilers plans against Vancouver a night prior, the penalty kill did its job by flipping the script with a crucial 5-on-3 stop during the second period before Nugent-Hopkins scored shorthanded to tie the game at two and record his second of the pre-season.
"I thought the penalty-killing was what kind of turned the game for us," Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett said post-game. "Our penalty kill got the shorthanded goal, but really did a good job with just the work ethic. We were fortunate to get one on the power play, so you always want to win the special-teams game."
The shorthanded tally started a run of five straight goals for the Oilers, with Joakim Nygard's first pre-season tally three minutes from the second intermission going down as the game-winner.
Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian added goals in their pre-season debuts, with Sam Gagner rounding out a successful night for the Oilers top line with a goal and two assists after adding a goal in the final five seconds.
Goaltender Mikko Koskinen went the distance in his second tune-up ahead of the regular season, stopping 18-of-20 shots sent his way in a full 60 minutes of action.
"I feel way more comfortable than I did yesterday," Koskinen, who conceded four goals on 23 shots last night against the Canucks, said. "I've put in a lot of hard work during the summer, and I really hope it's going to pay off. I'm sure it's going to pay off sooner than later."
To start the game, it was one shot and one goal for the Oilers.
Colby Cave worked the puck to the point for Adam Larsson, whose low attempt was redirected in the slot brilliantly past Flames netminder David Rittich for the early 1-0 advantage 2:44 from the opening faceoff.
It took the Flames seven minutes to record their first shot of the game, but the visitors equalled the Oilers early feat when Sam Bennett put home Calgary's first attempt off Michael Stone's hard rebound that fell kindly to the centre's stick.
Ryan Lomberg then put the finishing touches on a 2-on-1 with Zac Rinaldo before the break, reversing an early setback for the Flames who took a 2-1 advantage on the scoreboard and 8-6 in shots into the dressing room after 20 minutes.
The Oilers penalty kill was put to the test on a 5-on-3 midway through the second period that was brought on by Nygard batting the puck over the glass and Riley Sheahan getting docked for using his hand off a faceoff, but the hosts were able to weather the storm.
That positive defensive showing on the penalty kill set the stage for an offensive one during the next opportunity, with Nugent-Hopkins' missed pass on a 2-on-1 with Adam Larsson settling nicely in front of the crease for the centre to bang his second of the pre-season home top shelf over Jon Gillies.
"If you can get one on the kill, for sure it's a huge bonus. Especially when we just had that 5-on-3 and came right back with another penalty kill, so it was definitely nice to get a good bounce there and I was able to put it in," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I think it was a good time to do it and the team definitely responded."
Just as the Flames had quickly reversed an early deficit, the Oilers flipped the script before the second intermission thanks to Darnell Nurse's wrist shot and ensuing rebound being put home in front of goal by Nygard with 2:51 on the clock.
The Oilers waited nearly 43 minutes for their first power-play opportunity, and they made it count.
Kassian, suiting up in his first pre-season contest, wired a pin-point wrist shot off the right post before the puck tucked itself inside the opposite iron to give the Oilers the two-goal advantage.
Draisaitl finished off a give-and-go with Sam Gagner to increase the Flames deficit to three, following up his linemate Kassian's debut pre-season goal with one of his own with 9:51 remaining in regulation.
Gagner completed the goal trifecta for the line of Kassian, Draisaitl and Gagner in the third period late when the forward added the final tally with less than four seconds on the clock to add insult to injury for the Flames before the buzzer sounded.
"The last couple of years we've been struggling with our PK. Today was very solid," Draisaitl said. "All guys that went out there did a great job and that's how you win hockey games in this league. Obviously a great power-play goal by Kass too, so it was good special teams tonight."
The Oilers depart to Kelowna for a weekend of practice and team-building before returning to competitive action at Rogers Place against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday.