It took the Oilers only 21 seconds to grab the lead. Jacob Markstrom turned the puck over at the side of the net, allowing Nugent-Hopkins to flick in his third of the post-season.
”He kind of falls under the radar in terms of really good hockey players on our team,” Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft said. “But Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was a first-overall draft pick in the NHL for a reason.
“He’s a heck of a hockey player. He does a lot of subtle things very well and he makes us a deeper team.”
On a power play halfway through the first, Zach Hyman muscled in a rebound for his seventh. The Oilers survived a big push from the Flames late in the first, then took a 3-0 lead on Evander Kane’s eleventh.
”I don’t think we played our best period, by any means,” Oilers goaltender Mike Smith said.
“We stuck together as a group and never wavered, and we found a way to win a game. In the playoffs, that’s what you have to do.”
The Flames came to life with two goals 36 seconds apart in the second. Elias Lindholm sniped one on the power play, then Mikael Backlund drove down the right side and beat Mike Smith under the right arm.
Rasmus Andersson tied the game with a shocking goal with 9:04 left in the third. With the Flames shorthanded, Andersson cleared the puck from inside his own blue line. Smith didn’t see the puck until it was too late, and it was 3-3.
”I can laugh now, right?” Smith joked. “I don’t think there’s been a time in my career when I lost the puck and had no idea where it went.
”We could’ve easily packed it in after they got that long one on me,” Smith added. “We just showed resilience to come back and score a big goal and push the series to 3-1.”
“Our guys were saying the right things on the bench,” Woodcroft said post-game. “There was calm, there was composure and we knew we just had to continue to do the things that lead to success.”
Late in the third, Kailer Yamamoto worked the puck back to Tyson Barrie. His shot didn’t get through, but Nugent-Hopkins chopped in the rebound.
”We stuck with it all game,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “We knew they’d have a pushback and the way we stuck together and didn’t turn on each other at any moment shows good signs for our team.”
”The guys showed a really good measure of resolve and resiliency, and in the end, we got the right people on the ice at the right time and found a way to score,” Woodcroft added.
Andersson took a double minor for high sticking with 2:40 to go. Kane iced it with an empty netter on the power play.
“We all believe in this group,” Andersson said. “We’ve been a good team all year and we’ve been strong on home ice. We’ve just got to go home and focus on winning one game and take it from there.
“Obviously we’re in a tough situation.”
Smith finished with 29 saves.
Game 5 is Thursday in Calgary (630 CHED Face-off Show beings at 5:30 p.m., the game is set to begin at 7:30 p.m.).
— With files from Brenden Escott, 630 CHED