Smith and Gaudreau help Flames finally edge Oilers, 1-0
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) After challenging his team to be better, Mike Smith went out and led by example.
Smith made 28 saves for his fourth shutout this season, Johnny Gaudreau scored in the second period and the Calgary Flames edged the Edmonton Oilers 1-0 on Tuesday night to end a seven-game losing streak against their provincial rival.
”Smitty is a real fiery, competitive guy and we wanted a different mindset coming in,” Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said. ”If you’re a guy like him and you’re competitive, you’re going to say things and you want things, and it’s going to be good for our group that he’s backing them up.”
Calgary (35-26-10) is two points behind Dallas and Colorado, who occupy the two wild-card spots in the Western Conference. The Flames are also two points back of Los Angeles for third place in the Pacific Division.
After practice on Monday with the team reeling from Sunday’s 5-2 setback to the New York Islanders, Smith was vocal about how everyone needed to step it up.
”It starts with your play on the ice. It’s hard to talk in the room and to (the media) when you don’t go out there and do your job,” Smith said. ”It starts with yourself, taking care of what you can control.”
Calgary’s commitment to preserving a one-goal lead was especially evident in the final minute. With the Oilers on a power play and goaltender Cam Talbot pulled to make it a 6-on-4, Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan and Michael Frolik all blocked shots.
”To see guys lying down, blocking shots, guys getting over the red or the blue and dumping pucks in. We had a one-goal lead and we were riding our goalie and we felt that we didn’t need to win the game 5-0,” Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic said. ”We know that come playoff games, this is how you win games. Close scores like this.”
It was a superb bounce-back performance for Smith in his second game after missing a month with a lower-body injury. He was beaten four times on 26 shots Sunday against the Islanders.
”He’s a very vocal guy on our team and he’s one of our leaders and sometimes when you put yourself out there and say those things, you know you’re going to follow it up with a good game yourself and everyone’s going to follow suit,” Hamonic said.
Talbot made 31 saves as Edmonton (30-35-4) had its three-game winning streak snapped.
”After last game they weren’t too happy with their performance, so we knew we were going to get their best tonight,” Talbot said. ”We knew we were going to get a desperate team that needs every point possible.”
The most dangerous Oilers player all night was Connor McDavid, who entered on a seven-game point streak (six goals, seven assists) and with 18 goals in his last 19 games. But despite a team-high five shots and several other setups, McDavid could not solve Smith.
Early in the third, Smith acrobatically kicked out his pad to rob Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on a one-timer after he was set up perfectly by McDavid. On that same shift, McDavid swooped in alone on Smith, only to be denied by the 35-year-old goalie.
Smith also made a highlight-reel stop late in the second to preserve the one-goal margin, getting his arm on a shot from Ryan Strome after a bad bounce resulted in the Edmonton center having the puck alone in front.
”We’d like to score some goals, but we created chances. Even at the end with the goaltender pulled, we had some good looks at the net,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. ”Not overly disappointed in the effort. I’m disappointed in the outcome.”
Calgary scored at 5:18 of the second when Sean Monahan’s pass found Gaudreau alone in front and he zipped a backhand over Talbot’s shoulder.
Gaudreau’s 22nd goal of the season extended his point streak to five games (two goals, five assists).
NOTES: Calgary made two lineup changes at forward, with Drew Shore and Chris Stewart inserted for Matthew Tkachuk (upper body) and Mark Jankowski (coach’s decision). … Kris Versteeg (hip) missed his 49th game for the Flames but is nearing a return and could play as soon as Friday. … Ex-Flame Mike Cammalleri, who played in career game No. 900, has gone 30 games without a goal.
Oilers: Host the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.
Flames: Host the Sharks on Friday night.
For more NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey