Flames win wild one over Oilers as Battle of Alberta makes playoff return

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The Flames and Oilers put on a show in Game 1. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
The Flames and Oilers put on a show in Game 1. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Mistakes weren't really an option for either the Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames when facing elimination in nip and tuck opening rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So the provincial rivals decided to get them all out of their systems Wednesday in Game 1 of the first Battle of Alberta staged in the postseason in 31 years.

Despite coughing up leads of as many as four goals, Calgary recovered to beat the Oilers 9-6 in one of the wildest games in the recent playoff memory — and the highest-scoring postseason game in the history of the rivalry.

Ultimately, it was a test of dysfunction in Game 1 — and not all the other enticing things about seeing these two teams finally meet in the postseason again.

More specifically, it turned out that Edmonton's team defence was just fractionally worse than Flames netminder Jacob Markstrom, who was awful despite recording the win after needing every bit of brilliance in order to survive his counterpart, and the most outstanding player from Round 1, Dallas's Jake Oettinger.

Markstrom was fortunate, however, to be given a head start.

Edmonton's Mike Smith allowed goals on the first two shots he faced in the opening minute before being pulled after conceding a third a little over five minutes later. Edmonton worked its way back into the game after that point, scoring six of the next nine goals, but time and time again the Oilers were broken by the Flames' pressure at the worst times.

Most notably, the Oilers saw the Flames re-take the lead on Rasmus Andersson's goal less than 90 seconds after digging themselves out of the hole to tie the game at six in the first few shifts of the third period.

Matthew Tkachuk capped off a hat trick into an empty net and Blake Coleman had a two-goal outing for Calgary in what was another incredibly high-volume game from an output perspective.

The Flames had 40 shots through two periods, and finished the game with 77 attempts thrown toward the Edmonton net. They have now averaged more than 1.3 shot attempts per minute in the postseason, which represents a dramatic uptick from the regular season when they ran up more shot volume than any other team in the Western Conference.

For Edmonton, Zach Hyman led the way with two goals, while Connor McDavid had a goal and three assists and Leon Draisaitl finished with three points as well.

McDavid opened the scoring for Edmonton with an outstanding finish on Markstrom.

Mikko Koskinen was the best goaltender featured in the game by a wide margin, but allowed five goals on 37 shots in relief of Smith.

Edmonton will need a far better performance across the board Friday night in order to even the series at a game apiece.

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