Thursday , July 29 2021

Gaudreau, of Flames, leads the McDavid of the tankers in the battle of two elite scorers



EDMONTON – The Battle of Alberta has seen a little bit of everything over the years.

What has not been included for almost four decades is a clash between two of the league's best markers.

Thirty-eight years to be exact.

March 15, 1981 was the last time the Oilers and Flames played a game in the second half of the season, where both teams featured a player in the top five in points.

A legitimate confrontation from Hart to Hart.

It was then that Wayne Gretzky led the circuit with 131 points. Kent Nilsson was his closest trailer at 116.

Fast forward to Saturday night on the biggest stage of the season when the clash at Rogers Place could actually be dubbed a confrontation between Johnny Gaudreau and Connor McDavid.

Sitting second and fourth respectively in the NHL points race, the game finally had its two pillars.

In the end, Gaudreau scored a goal and gave a 5-2 win, extending his sequence of points to 11 career games, giving him 23 points in the process.

During the binge, he rose to the kind of superstar status that got his name in the Hart Trophy's conversation with McDavid.

By the end of the night, he had made a significant case as the man to beat in the individual battle of Alberta.

"He's elite, right?" said Bill Peters of Gaudreau, who now has 74 points with 32 remaining games.

"We are blessed in the province of Alberta with the stars we have on every team – it's worth the price of admission. It was a fun game to be a part of."

In terms of staff, there is obviously a gap.

Twenty points, to be exact, separate the best of the West from an Oilers team on the edge of a wild card crib.

All McDavid had to show during the night was a cut lip and a cut above the eye, courtesy of a tall Mark Giordano staff and a cross sign from Garnet Hathaway.

The captain's six-game sequence ended with a thud, Gaudreau pointing four points in the scoring race.

Clearly, the support cast that helped the Gaudreau gang to a 10-1-2 record is much deeper and superior to McDavid's crumbling crew.

The fact is that the flames are deeper than any NHL team outside of Tampa Bay.

Giordano officially entered the Fab Five with a power play goal that gave Norris 50 points in the season – the fifth Flame, who leads the championship on two occasions.

"We know we can score – we've scored all year," Giordano said in a room filled with his second emotional victory on many nights.

"When you have a team that can score goals it is very intimidating for other teams, they do not want to give up too much, but I really enjoyed our defensive game tonight. score for himself and did a decent job five in five. "

An ever-central defensive midfielder, Mikael Backlund, also had a significant evening, brilliantly putting Oliver Kylington's game winner at the end of the second period before finishing with an insurance goal at the end of the game.

It was his 300th place in the NHL, which is remarkable, given his role as the defensive center of the team.

"With the result of 300 points, the guys are really happy for him," said Peters, whose club is on leave until Tuesday's game against Carolina.

"He does a lot of hard work and a lot of things out of the radar. These are the types of guys you beat.

"We have a lot of guys figuring out a way to make positive contributions to team wins. That's what we're talking about."

That includes goalkeeper David Rittich, who raised his record to 18-4-4 with a night of 22 wins.

As happy as he was with the power game, there was not much, as officers were doing their best to keep a potentially inflammable provincial rivalry locked.

Sean Monahan and Giordano represented the Flames' two goals on seven occasions, while penalty killers limited the Oilers to Milan Lucic in 6 attempts.

Lucic's goal reduced Flames's lead to 3-2 at the start of the third quarter, and he punctuated with words to Flames's bench as he passed.

Able to blend in with anyone, Flames's focus was intense.

"If we play five against five, it will be difficult to defeat us," said Gaudreau, as he watched Giordano join the 50-point parade.

"It's cool – you're not just relying on one or two guys, we have three, four solid lines contributing night and night, that's how you win games in this championship."

Few victories were more satisfying to the team than this, given their history.

"Back-to-back, Saturday night and I do not think we've won here in a while – they're always fun," said Travis Hamonic, whose club entered the 0-3-2 game at Rogers Place since opening three years ago.

"Both guys (McDavid and Gaudreau) would say it's not a confrontation between them. Johnny is our superstar and one of the best in the league, he never ceases to amaze us."


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