EDMONTON, AB - Connor McDavid scored two goals, including a penalty shot, and Jesse Puljujarvi scored his first in the NHL as the Oilers beat the Calgary Flames 7-4 in the opening game of Rogers Place's inaugural season.
The Oilers said goodbye to Rexall Place last season and opened their new arena with a win, launching a new era of the Battle of Alberta rivalry in the process.
"We did a really good job of creating scoring chances and making them count when we got them," said Oilers winger Milan Lucic. "I think the shots against and the goals against were a little bit higher then what we would have hoped but when you get the two points, that's really all that matters and that's the biggest thing. A lot of good things were done here tonight. Obviously, a lot of things we need to clean up moving forward if we want to continue having success."
The first goal in Oilers Rogers Place history will forever be known as Patrick Maroon's tally at 1:10 of the first period. Leon Draisaitl fired a shot from the high slot, which Maroon deflected in off the shaft of his stick. Draisaitl scored the final goal in Rexall Place history, and his set-up helped christen the Oilers new arena.
The Flames, out to spoil the party, evened things up at 1:46 of the opening frame. Alex Chiasson buried a rebound in front, assisted by Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma.
Tyler Pitlick stole back the lead for Edmonton with snipe at 5:34 of the first. Former Flames defenceman Kris Russell went to the ice to block a shot, which was then picked up by Adam Larsson who set up a hard-skating Pitlick on the wing. Pitlick wheeled it up ice and buried his shot past Brian Elliott for the 2-1 advantage.
"I think I was on a line change," said Pitlick. "I was skating back and Larsson bumped the puck up to me and I skated down the wall. Me and (Kassian) were on a 2-on-1 and I was just thinking 'shoot the puck' and don't try and pass and give up a scoring chance. I shot it and it went in."
Zack Kassian made it 3-1, courtesy of a long-distance feed by Oscar Klefbom, which gave him a one-on-one crack at Elliott. Klefbom sauced the puck across ice to Klefbom setting up the breakaway. Klefbom made no mistake with a nice move and backhand bury at 15:12 of the opening period. McDavid recorded the second assist.
McDavid was hit by Deryk Engelland in the corner, which prompted Lucic to drop the gloves in his first game as an Oiler. The big free-agent signing took on Engelland in a scrap, which resulted in a standing ovation by the Edmonton crowd.
"It's another one of those things that's nice to get it over with early on in the season," said Lucic. "I fully expected it to be there heading into tonight's game. Guys are going to take runs at Connor. He showed tonight why he's such a special player. It's not just me, it's everyone. We have to be team tough. That's something we can improve on and it's going to be a part of our identity."
At 6:21 of the second period, Jordan Eberle nearly put Edmonton up by three, but Elliott made a huge stop. McDavid passed the puck out in front to Eberle, who snapped a shot on net but Elliott's glove was waiting for it.
Calgary's Troy Brouwer made it a one-goal game by beating Cam Talbot glove side on a shorthanded breakaway at 8:26 of the second.
Dougie Hamilton shoved McDavid into the net away from the puck, resulting in an interference penalty to Calgary. On the ensuing power play, Edmonton could not get much of anything going and Calgary got another shorthanded tally as a result. Mikael Backlund took the puck to the net and Michael Frolik finished the play at 11:51 of the second to tie the game at 3-3.
McDavid responded for the Oilers at 12:17. Andrej Sekera hammered a shot off the back wall and McDavid got a stick on it at the side of the net to pull Edmonton ahead 4-3. Russell recorded the second assist for his second point of the night.
The Battle of Alberta continued to boil with a scrum behind Talbot's net with six minutes left in the second period. Both Benoit Pouliot of the Oilers and Sam Bennett of the Flames received penalties, making it two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey. With more open ice, McDavid was able to go on a breakaway, on which he drew a hooking call and was awarded a penalty shot.
McDavid skated down the ice, slowed in the slot and used some lightning fast stick moves to beat Elliott and make it 5-3 at 14:33 of the period. McDavid is the 11th different player in Oilers history to score on a penalty shot, and the first ever at Rogers Place. Wayne Gretzky, who was in attendance at the game, scored the first penalty shot at Rexall Place on January 19, 1993.
"I'm actually not very good on penalty shots or breakaways and stuff like that," said McDavid. "I actually miss a lot more than I score. I just tried to mix it up and do something I'd never done before."
McDavid's two goals in the middle frame helped give them much-needed cushion heading into the third. He nearly got the hat trick in the early minutes of the final period.
McDavid blew past Mark Giordano to drive the net, but was stopped by Elliott. The puck sat in the crease but a driving Eberle couldn't get to it.
The Oilers continued to roll at 9:00 of the third. Puljujarvi sniped his first NHL goal to lift Edmonton to a 6-3 lead over their provincial rivals. The Finnish rookie was selected fourth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Dennis Wideman cut the Oilers lead to two by burying a one-timer at 11:29 of the third. But Eberle would put home the insurance empty-net tally to close out the seven-goal outing.
The Oilers (1-0-0) and Flames (0-1-0) will meet again Friday evening at 7 p.m. MT in Calgary.