Oilers vow to be better after dropping Game 1 despite scoring six goals

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CALGARY — The Edmonton Oilers scored six times at even strength on Wednesday night, but coming in a 9-6 loss to the Calgary Flames, they know they have to be much better as a team in Game 2.

“We scored six goals and that should be enough to win the game,” said Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft. “There's a lot of things that we can do better and we will.”

After being one of the stars in the Oilers' 4-3 series win over the Los Angeles Kings, starting goaltender Mike Smith didn't have it on this night, pulled by just 6:05 into the first period after yielding three goals on 10 shots – including two goals on three shots in the opening 51 seconds.

“You don't draw it up, giving up two goals on missed assignments the first two shifts,” said Woodcroft.

Before the “Sm-ith, Sm-ith” taunts from the sell-out Scotiabank Saddledome crowd could pick up much momentum, the 40-year-old former-Flames goaltender had been replaced by Mikko Koskinen, prompting fans to switch to chants of “We want Smith, we want Smith.”

Down 3-1 after one, the Oilers surrendered another opening-minute goal in the second to Blake Coleman, who added his second of the night five minutes later make it 5-1.

"I didn't like the way we skated, we weren't on our toes or assertive in any way to start,” Woodcroft said. “We missed some assignments and got pushed off a few pucks. In end they made us pay.”

Down 6-2 in the second, the Oilers began to rally first on a pair of goals by Zach Hyman less than five minutes apart.

It was the first two goals Edmonton had generated, going back to Game 3 against Los Angeles, in which Connor McDavid was not on the ice.

Including Edmonton's first two goals on Wednesday, the Oilers captain had been on the ice for 12 straight goals, scoring four of them and assisting on six others.

Then, before the second period ended, Leon Draisaitl whose 55 regular-season goals was second only to Auston Matthews' 60, wristed a shot past Jacob Markstrom to pull the Oilers to within one.

It's his sixth goal of the post-season, but first since he appeared to suffer an ankle injury in the first period of Game 6 against the Kings, an injury that noticeably has effected his skating.

Edmonton got it back to even 1:28 into the third period, but less than 90 seconds later, they were trailing again.

“We talked after the second that the team that got to their defence first would win,” Woodcroft said. “We got to 6-6, then turned over some pucks and it ended up in the back of our net."

Six minutes after that, it was another turnover, this time by Draisatil, and on the ensuing breakaway, Matthew Tkachuk scored his second of three goals with a shot that squeaked through Koskinen's pads.

“You're not going to win any games if you get scored on nine times, and there's no secret to that,” said Draisaitl. “We can all be a lot better away from the puck, and that starts with myself.”

Tkachuk's third of the night came into an empty net, but not before the Oilers squandered another man-advantage to finish the night 0 for 4.

Edmonton was a lethal 43.8 per cent against Calgary on the PP during the club's four regular season meetings. The Oilers were 36.8 per cent against the Kings.

But they went 0 for 4 against the Flames in Game 1 and only mustered three shots on goal.

“We didn't really get any momentum going on our PP. It's another thing that we were obviously looking to improve and be better next time,” said Draisaitl.

While they made the score close in the end, digging out of that early deficit, Woodcroft was not about to take any silver linings out of it.

“We fought back and made it a game, but we can't feel good about that in any way because we scored six goals in game and found a way to not win it.”

McDavid finished the night with a team-high four points (one goal, three assists) as well as a team-high five hits, which Woodcroft says is a good thing, shows he's leading by example. Now he needs the rest of the team to follow.

"We can have more physical attachment to the game, not just in scrums but in 50-50 battles, body position, net front, how hard you are around the blue paint," Woodcroft said.

Game 2 goes Friday, back at the Saddledome. Darnell Nurse joined the chorus of voices from the Oilers vowing that they'll be better.

“We’re capable of it. I don’t think we’re frustrated at all,” said the Oilers defenceman. “It’s Game 1 of a seven-game series. We know what needs to be better in Game 2. We’ll worry about taking care of that.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.

Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press

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