Edmonton Oilers regroup after goaltender Mike Smith pulled in 9-6 Game 1 loss to Calgary Flames

NHL


Mike Smith went from hero to zero in the Edmonton Oilers‘ crease. And now the team’s goaltending could be in flux following a 9-6 loss to the Calgary Flames in Game 1 of their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series on Wednesday.

The veteran netminder never even got settled into Wednesday’s matchup before Mikko Koskinen was called upon to replace him. Calgary scored two goals on Smith in the game’s first 51 seconds — from Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane — to record the fastest scoring start to an NHL playoff game in history.

This came just days after the 40-year-old backstopped Edmonton through their first-round series win over Los Angeles and become the oldest goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in his Game 7 debut when the Oilers’ closed out the Kings, 2-0, in that final tilt.

Despite the poor early returns in Calgary, Edmonton wasn’t dead in the water offensively. And that was the frustrating point for Oilers’ coach Jay Woodcroft.

“We scored six goals. That should be enough to win,” he said. “There’s a lot of things we can do better. Not one of us was where we needed to be to start the game. You don’t draw up giving up two goals on the first two shifts.”

Woodcroft was not asked directly after the game if Smith or Koskinen would get the start in Game 2 on Friday. He only made it clear a better overall effort was expected.

“I think what we realize tonight is it’s only one game in the series. We’re 0-1,” he said. “We have really good leaders among [our] players. We’re going to go back to the drawing board; there were some issues that showed up. We’ll be ready for [Game 2] on Friday.”

It was Brett Ritchie‘s first-ever postseason goal just past the six-minute mark of the first period that chased Smith, who allowed three goals on 10 shots, and put Koskinen between the pipes. Koskinen had not appeared in the postseason since August 2020, when Edmonton was up against Chicago in the NHL’s COVID-19 playoff tournament.

This pivotal playoff series was hardly the first time Edmonton’s goaltending had been an issue. It was a season-long problem. Smith was injured just three games into the Oilers’ campaign and missed time with other ailments after that. Koskinen oscillated between red-hot stretches and ice-cold plunges, punctuated by solid appearances from rookie Stuart Skinner.

The final few weeks of Edmonton’s season saw both Smith and Koskinen at their best. There was a heavy debate over who should get the start in Game 1 against Los Angeles.

Smith had the strongest regular season numbers (.915 SV%, 2.81 GAA). So, he got the nod and went 4-3-0 with a .938 SV% and 2.29 GAA versus the Kings to move Edmonton along to the second round.

The Oilers did their best to support Koskinen with much-needed offense. Connor McDavid had Edmonton on the board just 90 seconds after Koskinen stepped in, before a pair of goals from Calgary’s Blake Coleman in the second made it 5-1 Flames.

The Oilers took over after that, tallying four goals (two by Zach Hyman, one each from Leon Draisaitl and Evan Bouchard) to Calgary’s one (by Matthew Tkachuk) to knot the game at 6-6 early in the third period.

“When the game got to 5-2, I thought our team did work to make a game of it,” Woodcroft said. “But in the end, we scored six times. There’s no way we should not win that hockey game…we got pushed off a few pucks [and] we weren’t good enough and they made us pay.”

Indeed, the Oilers could not extinguish the Flames’ attack, as Rasmus Andersson and Tkachuk — who finished the first hat trick by a Flames’ player in 26 years — closed out Calgary’s victory in the third.

Koskinen finished Game 1 with 32 saves. Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom had 22 stops.

Now Edmonton has little time to regroup and try to even the series in Calgary on Friday.

“[It was just] not good enough,” Woodcroft said. “We scored six goals on the Calgary Flames in their building, on their starting goalie. That should be enough to win the game.”



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