As endless jerseys with 97 and 29 on the back filed out of the Saddledome early, a sold-out C of Red serenaded them with a simple plea.
“We want 10. We want 10,” they chanted.
Matthew Tkachuk claimed he couldn’t hear them, but said afterward: “We wanted ten.”
Cue the game-day production folks who played Dolly Parton’s 9-to-5, reflecting a score that prompted “Oilers Suck” chants while Dillon Dube rang one off the post.
Nine even-strength goals by the hosts in a 9-5 win certainly suggest the visitors have work to do if they’re going to give the Flames a run this spring in their first potential interprovincial playoff tussle in 31 years.
However, as the dust settled on one of the most memorable evenings in Saddledome lore, it was a save, of all things, that most lads in red saw as the difference.
Clinging to a 6-5 lead three minutes into the third period, the Flames were caught on a bad line change that saw Connor McDavid race in with two teammates, culminating with a five-bell chance for Evander Kane turned aside in spectacular fashion by Jacob Markstrom.
It was the type of save the Oilers have been so sorely short of since losing out on signing Markstrom two summers ago.
Eighteen seconds later, Elias Lindholm scored his second to put some distance between the division-leading Flames and an Oilers team now 11 points behind.
“I thought that probably the turning point in the game, or the biggest play of the game, was Marky’s save,” said Tkachuk, who moved into fifth in NHL scoring with a four-point night.
“We got the seventh goal right after that. Lots of guys got rewarded tonight but I think that play should go down as the winning play for us. A great play by a great player.”
Darryl Sutter agreed, calling the save, “the difference,” before turning to the far more obvious heroes on his top line, who combined for 11 points one game after being reunited.
A career-high five assists for Johnny Gaudreau, two goals for Lindholm and two more from Tkachuk, who added two helpers and a few thoughts for Mike Smith as the game grew testy late.
“Old teammates and nice to put a couple in there,” smiled Tkachuk, who had plenty to say to Smith following a third-period whistle in which the goalie took exception to Tkachuk’s late whack. “Just battling right to the end. Nobody on their team was really happy towards the end. I’d be pretty frustrated too.
“I thought the craziest part was it was 6-5 and I looked at the clock and there was like ten minutes left in the second period.”
Yes, it was so nuts one wondered if Sutter would send out the guy who blows the goal horn to explain this one at the post-game presser.
Instead, he came out and complained about the penalties that led to three of the five Oilers goals 30 minutes in – a surefire way to ensure these Oilers are never quite out of a game.
After scoring the opening goal 32 seconds in, the Oilers had to battle back to tie it twice in the first 24 minutes before Leon Draisaitl’s third of the night had the Oilers down 6-5.
“The only thing I didn’t like was all them black hats that got thrown on the ice – there must have been a giveaway in Leduc or something,” smiled Sutter, adding another classic line to his list of quips.
Did it remind the Jolly Rancher of the 80’s?
“Nah, there would have been fights and a lot more hits, for sure,” he shrugged.
The Flames’ first sellout since 2020 saw a raucous crowd explode when Tkachuk scored the Calgary’s fifth goal a mere five minutes into the second period, chasing starter Mikko Koskinen from the game.
Enter Smith, the fiery former Flame who was beaten by Tkachuk minutes earlier, prompting a quick word from the Flames forward as he began his celebration.
It only served to stir the fans up even more as the Flames went on to even the season series 2-2.
“You could hear the Calgary fans more than the Edmonton fans tonight – sometimes when they come in they get the Oilers chants going early, and they did tonight when they made it 1-0,” said Tkachuk.
“They were great and energetic right until the last second. Pretty cool when you get a standing ovation with a minute or two to play there.”
Touted as the best measuring stick yet between two of the hottest teams in the NHL, the Oilers came in with all of their regulars, as well as deadline additions Derick Brassard and Brett Kulak.
Brassard’s early goal kickstarted a scoring frenzy that saw the Battle of Alberta finish one-goal short of the record for snipes in a game.
Had the Flames given the Oilers any more than the five power plays, the scoring record might have been in jeopardy, as the only thing keeping the Oilers in this one was the man advantage.
On a night full of crazy stats, all three members of the Flames’ top line finished plus-4, while Noah Hanifin finished plus-5 in his 500th NHL game, making him the fifth-youngest defenceman in NHL history to hit the milestone for games.