The Edmonton Oilers returned to play with a 4-1 exhibition win over the Calgary Flames Tuesday night at Rogers Place.
It was the first game for the Oilers since March 11. The NHL season was paused because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12.
The Oilers struck early when Kailer Yamamoto lifted a rebound past Cam Talbot just 1:04 into the game. Connor McDavid made it 2-0 on the power play less than eight minutes later.
Halfway through the second period, Mike Smith replaced Mikko Koskinen in the Oilers net. Koskinen stopped all 17 shots he faced. Talbot stopped 19 of 21 for Calgary, and was replaced by David Rittich.
McDavid says the Oilers’ goaltending tandem is an advantage heading into the playoffs.
“It’s a great problem to have. We’ve got two goalies that we really trust – both guys were awesome tonight,” he said.
“(Koskinen) started great for us, and let us get our legs under us. And (Smith) obviously with some huge saves there in the third, to keep it a one-goal game.”
The Flames pulled within one with 3.6 seconds left in the second. Elias Lindholm found a rebound in front and lifted it over Smith.
Smith made a great save early in the third, moving across the crease to deny Dillon Dube on a two-on-one.
The Oilers put it away with two goals 33 seconds apart late in the third. Patrick Russell benefited from a funny bounce in front of Rittich and swiped home a backhand. McDavid notched his second of the night with a wrister from the right wing.
Defenceman Ethan Bear spoke about the unique atmosphere on the ice.
“As it is an exhibition game, we were trying to feel it out. But right away in warmups, you could kind of feel the energy brewing,” he said.
“It wasn’t an easy game. Everyone was battling hard, and you know with the scrums, both teams hate each other, and you know that’s as close as it gets to a playoff-type exhibition game.”
LISTEN: Connor McDavid and Ethan Bear
Meanwhile McDavid says the game had a little bit of everything.
“I liked our first period, didn’t like our second, and I thought we responded well in the third,” he said.
“We kind of had all the highs and lows of one game, and those are the type of swings you’re going to see in the playoffs. So we’ve done our best to prepare ourselves, and we have a couple more days to do that, and we’ll be ready to go Saturday.”
LISTEN: Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett
Head Coach Dave Tippett echoed the sentiment, when asked how he felt about the game.
“All in all, you like the win. But it was a good game for evaluating where we are, and some players where they fit, and some things we have to work on in the next couple days,” he said.
The Oilers open their best-of-five qualifying round series against Chicago on Saturday.
Watch below: Some recent Global News videos about the NHL and the Edmonton Oilers.