McDavid scores, Smith stops 29 pucks in Edmonton's 4-1 win over Calgary Flames

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EDMONTON — It didn’t come as a surprise to Connor McDavid’s teammates that the Oilers captain had an offensive outburst, one game after being shut down by the opposition.

McDavid scored and added two assists to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames Saturday night in the final game between the Alberta rivals this season.

The offensive performance came two days after the Flames kept McDavid off the scoresheet for the third time this year in a 5-3 Calgary win.

“Nothing ceases to amaze me with this kid,” said Oilers goalie Mike Smith, who made 29 saves for his 18th win. “It’s incredible how he continues to get better and better. … When he gets shut down one game, the next game he’s that much more hungry to get out there and help the team win. It says a lot about the maturity of him as a person.

“Everybody knows how incredible he is on the ice, but I’ve seen a young man grow into a leader of this hockey club.”

The Flames took pride in blanking McDavid on Thursday but it didn’t take long for Edmonton’s points leader to get off the mark on Saturday.

McDavid put the Oilers in front 1-0 with an end-to-end play at 4:46 of the first on the power play. Starting behind his own net, the Edmonton captain fed Leon Draisaitl in the neutral zone before getting the pass back at the blue line. McDavid then charged past two defencemen, dangled the puck in front of Christopher Tanev and snapped it high past Jacob Markstrom for his 29th on the year.

It was the first of four assists for Draisaitl on the night.

The Oilers (30-17-2) doubled their lead a few minutes later with McDavid turning provider. A good cycle play in the offensive zone ended when McDavid found Ethan Bear at the side of the net. Bear’s one-timer, which may have taken a slight deflection off Nikita Nesterov, beat Markstrom stick side at 7:19.

McDavid nearly scored another in the second period, on the power play, but he didn’t get everything on a shot that was stopped by defenceman Michael Stone on the doorstep.

“In a playoff series, you can’t lose two in a row,” said McDavid, who was playing his 400th career NHL game. “We were able to bounce back in a series where they’re fighting for their life. It’s desperate hockey, it’s playoff hockey. Thought we did a great job responding.”

It was another critical game for Calgary (22-25-3), who lost ground in the divisional playoff race and are now eight points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the fourth and final playoff spot. The Habs came from behind to defeat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in overtime earlier Saturday.

Down 2-1 in the third, Calgary pressed for the equalizer while playing carefully enough to avoid conceding again. But Smith stopped all 11 shots he faced in the frame.

Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau was denied a great chance to get on the board early in the second when his shot on the breakaway beat Smith but rang off the crossbar.

Gaudreau wouldn’t be denied later in the frame, though, when he extended his point streak to seven games with a tally at 10:48. Matthew Tkachuk powered his way to the net and fired a shot on Smith, who kicked it with his pad right to Gaudreau on the rush for the back-handed rebound. Gaudreau has 12 points in his past 10 games.

With the loss, time is running out for the Flames, who have six games left this season beginning with a contest against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday.

“Obviously we’re disappointed in how we didn’t get the job done tonight,” said Tanev. “We can sit here and say this and that, but at the end of the day we lost the game and we weren’t good enough.”

Josh Archibald scored the first empty-netter for Edmonton with 1:06 left in the game. Darnell Nurse added the other 40 seconds later.

Notes: Edmonton blocked 17 shots. … Markstrom stopped 25-of-27 shots in defeat. … Edmonton finished with a 6-4 record against the Flames. … The Oilers have not lost back-to-back games since mid-March. … Edmonton’s next four games are against the last-place Vancouver Canucks, beginning Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2021.

The Canadian Press