Player grades: Carnage in Calgary as Edmonton Oilers lose Khaira, Barrie, hockey game

Jacob Markstrom #25 of the Calgary Flames stops a shot from Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers during the first period of an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 15, 2021.Jacob Markstrom #25 of the Calgary Flames stops a shot from Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers during the first period of an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 15, 2021. Photo by Derek Leung /Getty Images

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Oilers 3, Flames 4

Tough night in Cowtown for the Edmonton Oilers. First they lost two players to injury in the first period. The short-staffed crew that remained fell behind twice by two goals, fought back to tie it 3-3 early in the third, but allowed   an immediate answer-back tally that ultimately proved the difference in a 4-3 Flames win. In regulation, natch.

The Oilers came oh so close to notching the equalizer in the dying seconds, when Jesse Puljujarvi’s hard wrist shot just inside the far post appeared to beat Jacob Markstrom under the blocker, but caught the shaft of the netminder’s stick and caromed wide of the cage. It was the last “woulda, coulda, shoulda” moment in a game that held plenty of them, especially on the defensive side of the puck.

After an energetic but low-event first period that saw a total of just 9 shots on goal and 0 (zero) Grade A scoring chances for either team, things opened up in the final two frames. Edmonton held the advantage on the shot clock 31-27, while Calgary held an 11-9 edge in Grade A scoring chances as logged by David Staples and myself here at the Cult of Hockey (running count).

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Player grades

#4 Kris Russell, 7. Performed well in his return to the line-up, making a fine defensive stop on his very first shift and proceeding from there. Was pressed into double duty when Barrie departed the game after one period, and wound up splitting his time almost equally among three different partners (Bear, Larsson, Nurse) transitioning from left to right defence as needed. In 17 minutes of 5v5 hockey the Flames mustered just 2 shots on net, the Oilers 6. Chipped in another 2:40 on the penalty kill unit that went a perfect 3-for-3 on the night.

#6 Adam Larsson, 6. Kick-started Edmonton’s comeback when he ventured deep into the zone to join Ennis and Yamamoto’s thrust, found the rebound and pounded 2 quick shots on Markstrom, the second finding paydirt. Made a terrific lob pass from the d-zone that McDavid skated onto deep in Calgary territory. Had a couple of defensive issues early in the second period but settled down thereafter.  Took his standard pounds of flesh with 3 hits to lead the D corps. Logged 22:52 on the night.

#13 Jesse Puljujarvi, 6. Drew the one-and-only Calgary minor penalty. Came on strong in the third period and was one of Edmonton’s most dangerous threats. Won a battle in the build-up to Draisaitl’s tying goal. Then with Oilers trailing 4-3 he was front and centre in the team’s 3 best chances to tie it up, all in the last 3 minutes and change. Stopped by Markstrom on a diving attempt to jam home a rebound, then had his perfectly-placed shot foiled by the shaft of the netminder’s stick in the final 5 seconds.

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#14 Devin Shore, 6. Made a terrific pass that Archibald tipped home late in the second to draw the Oilers within 1. Otherwise played an honest two-way game, playing 9 minutes at even strength and another 2:38 on the penalty kill.

#15 Josh Archibald, 7. Tipped home the 3-2 goal when he was able to elevate Shore’s fine pass over Markstrom’s pad. Had a great chance to tie it on a shorthanded breakaway, but Markstrom flashed out a pad to foil his deke. 4 shots on net, 2 hard hits, and 3 minutes of good penalty killing including a diving clearance.

#16 Jujhar Khaira, incomplete. Left the game after just 2:55 of action, though an eventful 2:55 it was. First he nailed Oliver Kylington with a hard hit that made head contact with the stooping Flame. Was predictably challenged by Flames’ tough guy Brett Ritchie on a subsequent faceoff, accepted said challenge, but took by far the worst of it in the fight that followed. Ritchie was already ahead on points when he clocked Khaira right on the button with a hard right. Khaira went down, stayed down, then disappeared down the tunnel with assistance, his night over just half a period in.

#18 James Neal, 3. Played just 7 minutes and didn’t get a lot done. Did get loose for an open look off an outstanding stretch pass by Smith and wired a heavy outside shot over the crossbar. But had 0 shots on net, 0 hits. His only other mark on the stat sheet was a well-deserved -1 on second Flames goal when his weak backcheck from the F2 spot allowed the Flames to outnumber the Oilers 4-on-3 in a rush led by a Flames defenceman.

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#22 Tyson Barrie, 4. Played 7:02, all of it in the first period, so enough to qualify for a player grade. In a period that the Oilers outshot the Flames 5-4, all at even strength, the count on Barrie’s watch was 0 for, 4 against. 0 shot attempts, 1 giveaway.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 4. Played a monstrous 30:15 in 30 shifts, both team highs, and carried a lot of mail. Credited with 7 shot attempts, 3 of them, on goal, but by our count had 0 involvement in Grade A chances by the Oilers, 3 by the Flames including allowing a key pass on the 2-0 goal.

#29 Leon Draisaitl, 7. Just another night at the office with 25:23 of ice time, 10 shot attempts, 7 of them on goal, 3 hits, 9/14=64% on the dot, and what seemed at the time to be a massive tying goal early in the third. That came on a terrific inside shift and great shot that overpowered Markstrom from the faceoff dot, right under the crossbar. Also involved in Oilers’ first goal, though three teammates touched the puck after he did so no point on that one. Had a couple of defensive issues but nothing costly; also made a terrific defensive play to thwart a dangerous looking Flames thrust. +2 on the night to run his season total to an impressive +22, best among NHL forwards.

#39 Alex Chiasson, 3. Lost a battle deep in Flames territory in the early build-up to the second Calgary goal. Took a rare penalty, just his second minor of the season. 1 shot, 2 hits.

#41 Mike Smith, 4. Tough night for the Oilers’ stopper, who made a critical error on the third Calgary goal when he failed to control a Calgary shoot-in above the icing line and got trapped out of position when the disc settled in the no-go zone. A split second slow in getting back to his net and the damage was done. He guessed, and guessed wrong, on Dillon Dube’s breakaway goal and again on Noah Hanifin’s game-winner from the slot, both times moving before the puck was released and opening the hole that the disc found in each case. Did make a couple of good stops, notably on a terrific Milan Lucic deflection, and made two fine stretch passes the other way. 27 shots, 23 saves, .852 save percentage.

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#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 5. Earned an assist on the first Edmonton goal with some diligent work in the low slot. Had a 2-on-1 chance with Draisaitl but failed to connect with the pass, the third time in two games the Oilers had a wide-open 2-on-1 without once generating a shot on net. Took a marginal penalty in the third period on the exact same patch of ice where he’d been pitchforked to the ice by Mark Giordano one shift earlier. So it went for the Oilers on this night.

#63 Tyler Ennis, 7. Set up Larsson’s goal with an excellent shot from the slot. Really came alive in the late going, making key plays on the last 3 Oilers chances, including a terrific rush and pass in the dying seconds.

#74 Ethan Bear, 3. The good: logged solid shot shares, made a terrific shot block, and earned an assist on Archibald’s goal with a lovely cross-ice feed on the zone entry for his first point in his last 14 games.
The bad: struggled much of the night under heavy forechecking pressure and too often turned the puck over in his own territory.
The ugly: Made an ill-timed line change on the first Calgary goal when, with his partner already committed to joining the rush, he as last man back peeled off for the change before the puck went deep; when McDavid got checked in the neutral zone, wham! breakaway. His coach correctly identified a damaged skate as contributing to that situation, but that doesn’t entirely account for the bad timing of the switch. Later, his failed neutral zone pinch led to a wide open 3-on-2 and the game winning goal just 67 seconds after Edmonton had tied the score. A bad read and a costly one.

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#84 William Lagesson, 4. His initial play to get open for the expected pass from Smith was fine, but a split second delay in his reaction when Smith got trapped with the puck in the no-go was fatal, as he wasn’t quite able to subsequently cut out the pass from the corner. A couple of wild passes from his own zone, one an icing. Did fire a terrific low wrist shot into traffic that created a dangerous deflection.

#91 Gaetan Haas, 5. Played 13:27, and split his even-strength time between the third and fourth lines after Khaira departed. Skated well, good on the penalty kill, made a nice if perhaps accidental pass that set Archibald in the clear. Zero shot attempts, however. 5/12=42% on the dot.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 4. Not much went right for the Nuge on this night, which he ended with an ugly -3. He was caught trying to play goal on the game winner, didn’t make the stop and screened his own goalie in the process. Did make a couple of fine passes to Draisaitl and Puljujarvi for dangerous shots. But when set up directly between the circles on the Oilers’ lone powerplay, he failed to hit the target.

#97 Connor McDavid, 5. No questioning his effort, which was substantial, but the results just weren’t there. His neutral zone turnover led directly to the game’s first goal (against). Had another turnover off the side of Oilers’ net which led to a jam opportunity. At the other end, by our reckoning he was not involved in any Grade A chances, a rare occurrence indeed. Did set up Draisaitl’s goal (on a Grade B look) on a nice give-and-go. Also set up some other would-be chances, such as the Yam-Drai 2-on-1 and the Nuge miss from the slot, which had promise but didn’t wind up in shots. Mustered 3 shots of his own from various angles, but his best look from the slot in the late going fluttered on his stick and wound up going high over the crossbar. 4 hits to lead all Oilers forwards and a good showing on the faceoff dot with 8/11=73%.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

STAPLES: RNH’s bargaining power at unexpected low as contract talks resume

McCURDY: 10-game segment review of Oilers Games 21-30

LEAVINS: Ken Holland’s challenge is to find the balance — 9 Things

McCURDY: Oilers run into a hot goalie in Vancouver — Player Grades

STAPLES: Kris Versteeg says it’s time to protect stars like McDavid

McCURDY: Solid defensive play driving positive results for Oilers

Follow me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy

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