CALGARY — A big offensive display propelled two Calgary Flames players into the top five in NHL scoring.
Matthew Tkachuk had two goals and two assists and Johnny Gaudreau had a career-high five assists to lead the Flames to a wild 9-5 victory over the Edmonton Oilers Saturday.
Gaudreau’s 90 points on the season ranks him third behind Connor McDavid (97) and Leon Draisaitl (94), who netted a hat trick in defeat. Tkachuk’s 82 points has him tied for fifth.
Both players are riding hot streaks. Tkachuk (four goals, seven assists) and Gaudreau (three goals, eight assists) have combined for 22 points in the last four games.
“The big line was the difference,” said Flames coach Darryl Sutter. “They had a good night and they’ve been good at five on five all year. There’s something to be said about the difference between goals for and goals against when you’re on the ice.”
“That was a lot of fun,” said Gaudreau. “I’ve been here for a long time and this is the most competitive the Battle of Alberta has been since I’ve been here.”
Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm, who centres the line and scored twice Saturday, are tied for the NHL lead at plus-49. Tkachuk is fourth at plus-42.
It’s a distinct point of separation between Calgary’s big duo and the big duo of its provincial rival. Gaudreau and Lindholm were both plus-four on Saturday.
Meanwhile Draisaitl was a minus-four — despite the three goals and an assist — as was McDavid, which was a career-worst for him. On the season, Draisaitl is plus-16 and McDavid is plus-14.
Tied 4-4 early in the second, the Flames took the lead for good on a pair of goals less than three minutes apart from Tkachuk.
At 5:06, Gaudreau muscled his way past Evan Bouchard to retrieve a loose puck. He then spun and sent a pass into the slot to a wide-open Tkachuk, who sent a shot through Mikko Koskinen’s pads. That ended the night for Koskinen, who was replaced by Mike Smith after giving up five goals on 12 shots.
“He plays a complete game, it’s not about goals and assists always,” Sutter said about Gaudreau. “You’ve got to play the whole game. He’s our best checker. I’ve said that lots.”
It didn’t start off any better for Smith. At 7:39, McDavid’s turnover allowed Gaudreau to find Tkachuk in behind the defence.
“It’s not on our goalies. It’s on us,” said Draisaitl. “It’s an off night. Not good enough, obviously. Starts with me. I have to be a lot better.”
Draisaitl’s third of the game at 9:18 of the second on a two-man advantage, his 47th of the season, brought to the ice over 50 hats from the boisterous Oilers supporters scattered throughout the red-clad crowd.
But they would get no closer in the game played before a raucous crowd of 19,289, Calgary’s first sellout since February 21, 2020 against Boston.
There were competing chants of “Here we Go Oilers,” responded to with “Oilers Suck” early in the game. Then in the third came chants of “We want 10” from the home fans who all rose to their feet as the game approached the final buzzer.
“Pretty cool when you got a standing ovation with a minute or two to play,” Tkachuk acknowledged.
Mikael Backlund also scored twice for Calgary (40-17-8) with Chris Tanev, Oliver Kylington and Dillon Dube adding one each.
Derick Brassard and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins rounded out the scoring for Edmonton (36-25-5). McDavid had two assists, both on the power play.
Jacob Markstrom had 26 saves for Calgary to improve to 31-12-7. Despite giving up five goals, he had a huge stop in the third that was crucial.
After he robbed Evander Kane in front, the Flames pushed the puck up ice with Gaudreau setting up Lindholm for his second of the night to make it 7-5.
“I told Marky after the game, that’s the difference,” said Sutter. “There’s lots of goalies where the coaches yank them, or the goalie doesn’t play very good after that. Difference in a lot of teams are big saves and bad goals.”
Smith got the loss to fall to 7-9-2. He stopped 22 of the 26 shots he faced.
“We’ve spent the last five weeks or so trying to improve certain areas of our game, and I thought we got away from it tonight and we paid the price,” said Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft, who is 13-7-2 since taking over for Dave Tippett. “That stings. It’s nine even-strength goals against. Not good enough.”
The two provincial rivals split their four-game season series.
Edmonton wasted little time jumping into a 1-0 lead when Brassard deflected Bouchard’s point shot past Markstrom just 32 seconds into the game.
But the Oilers’ only lead of the night lasted less than five minutes.
Lindholm was sent in alone on a pass from Tkachuk and he went to his backhand, putting a shot under the crossbar.
The Flames than surged in front on goals 16 seconds apart from Tanev and Backlund.
NOTES: Noah Hanifin played his 500th NHL game. At 25 years and 60 days, he’s the fifth youngest defenceman to reach that milestone in NHL history and youngest since 1994… Flames centre Ryan Carpenter made his debut after being acquired from Chicago at the trade deadline. He centered a line with Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis.