PENTICTON, BC -- The result wasn’t what the Calgary Flames were looking for. The showcase was.
Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau each recorded a goal and an assist as the Flames fell 4-3 to the Edmonton Oilers in a penalty-filled ‘Battle of Alberta’ at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton on Saturday.
“The first game I was pretty nervous,” Bennett admitted. “I wasn’t really too sure how to play, I guess. Today, I felt a lot more confident out there. Especially in the offensive zone, me and Johnny had a lot of chemistry. The confidence there was really good. I think that’s what really stood out for me.
“He’s an unbelievably skilled player. Anytime you get a chance to play like that, good things are going to happen for you. I was fortunate enough to play with him tonight.”
Gaudreau didn’t mind Bennett, either.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with him,” he said. “He’s a talented player and when you play with a talented player, you’re just going to become a better player on the ice. I think it was me and him and we played with two or three other guys tonight and each time we played with another guy, we seemed to click really well, whether it was (Garnet) Hathaway or (Michael) Ferland. I really liked tonight.”
After a slow start in a 6-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets in the tournament’s opening game, the Flames wasted little time jumping on Edmonton.
But despite holding an 8-1 advantage in shots in the opening five minutes, it was the Oilers opening the scoring courtesy Kyle Platzer. From the top of the circle, Platzer let go a snapshot that beat starter Mason McDonald over the glove to put Edmonton up 1-0 near the midway mark of the first.
It didn’t take long for Gaudreau to respond with his second highlight reel goal of the tournament to tie the game 1-1. After Bennett’s initial shot was stopped, Gaudreau picked the rebound off the pads of Ty Rimmer and pulled the Oilers goaltender out of position with a fake before sliding the puck in the net.
Turner Elson nearly gave Calgary their first lead of the game a shift later, but was denied on a partial breakaway by the pad of Rimmer.
After four minors were whistled in the Flames direction in the first period, the parade to the penalty box continued for Calgary in the second. It cost them, too.
With both Pavel Padakin and Keegan Kanzig assessed minors, CJ Ludwig took advantage of a late 5-on-3 advantage after hammering a one-timer off Marco Roy’s feed to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead heading into the intermission.
Another late goal by Ludwig helped stake the Oilers to a two-goal lead after 40 minutes.
Off a faceoff to McDonald’s left, a seeing-eye point shot through traffic off the stick of Ludwig eluded the Flames goaltender to put Edmonton up 3-1 with just 1:09 remaining in the middle frame.
“The first period was great I thought we had a lot of energy and we played I think the way you need to play,” coach Ryan Huska said. “We had a good forecheck and I thought we had some good offensive zone time.
"Second period we ran into a lot of penalty trouble and I think from that point on in the game, we lost a lot of the flow. At that point, the flow of the game changed.”
Bennett pulled the Flames back to within one early in the third, taking a feed from Gaudreau and wrapping the puck around on Rimmer at 5:42.
“It was five-hole,” Bennett said. “He read the wraparound too quickly so I figured his legs would be open and I squeezed it in.”
On the next shift, Austin Carroll found himself alone in the slot but couldn’t hit the net with the tying marker.
But Bogdan Yakimov restored the cushion with just 1:52 remaining in regulation, finishing a tic-tac-toe passing play behind McDonald, who finished with 13 saves.
A late goal by Carroll just 33 seconds later gave the Flames some late life, but Rimmer and the Oilers managed to close the door on a second consecutive come-from-behind victory for Calgary.