Two power play goals made all the difference as the Edmonton Oil Kings (24-7-5-2) fell 5-3 to the Calgary Hitmen (17-11-4-1) in front of 7,161 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday night.
After climbing out to an early, 1-0 first period lead, the Oil Kings battled back from a 3-1 second period deficit to knot things up at 3-3 in a game that was nationally televised on Rogers Sportsnet.
But the Hitmen eventually made both of their opportunities with the man advantage on the night count; one in the dying minutes of the second period, and the other midway through the third, claiming their first regulation win over the Oil Kings since March 17, 2018.
Jack McNaughton (12-3-1-1) earned the win for the home team, making 29 saves on 32 Oil Kings shots.
Sebastian Cossa (14-3-1-1) endured just his third loss of the campaign, making 21 of 26 saves.
The Oil Kings opened the game’s scoring after a shot on goal by Ethan Cap produced a save by McNaughton, but the ensuing rebound was buried by Airdrie, AB native Jake Neighbours for his 13th of the season, with newcomer Samuel Stewart earning the secondary assist, just 1:34 into the first frame.
The Hitmen tied the game, 1-1, at 6:41 which is how the score would remain headed into the first intermission.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes of play favoured the Oil Kings, 13-7.
The Hitmen took the lead, 2-1, after an early goal of their own – also on the rebound – at the 1:37 mark of the second period.
Calgary claimed its first lead of the game just over six minutes later via the first career WHL goal of Evan Toth, making it 3-1 Hitmen at 8:06.
Vladimir Alistrov brought the Oil Kings to within one with his 10th of the season, firing a laser to the blocker side of McNaughton at 14:05, assisted by Tyler Horstmann, cutting the Calgary lead to 3-2.
The wiry wrister seemed to incite some energy into the Oil Kings efforts late in the second, as Josh Williams responded with his team leading 16th goal of the season. After an impressive individual effort to keep the puck in at the blueline during 4-on-4 play, Williams skated the puck deep and once again tied the game, 3-3, from Riley Sawchuk and Logan Dowhaniuk, at 16:15.
Unfortunately for the visitors, their momentum would come to a screeching halt after the Oil Kings were whistled for tripping seconds later at 16:28. The Hitmen responded quickly with a goal on the 4-on-3 man advantage to restore their one goal lead, 4-3, at 16:56.
That finalized the five-goal second period, which saw Calgary take command in shots on goal in the frame – 13-7 – for a two period total of 20-20.
In the third, despite outshooting the Hitmen 12-6, the Oil Kings surrendered one last power play marker to fall behind 5-3; a deficit they would fail to erase despite pulling Cossa in favour of an extra attacker with more than two minutes remaining in regulation.
Final shots on goal were 32-26, Edmonton.
Calgary was 2-for-2 on the power play, while Edmonton was 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
Evan Toth (CGY) (3), Jake Neighbours (EDM) (2), and Mark Kastelic (CGY) (1) were selected as the Three Stars of the Game.
Matthew Robertson and Ethan Cap each wore an “A” and skated as alternates to captain Scott Atkinson.
The Oil Kings are back in action on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 when they host the Everett Silvertips at Rogers Place for New Year’s Fireworks Frenzy at 2:00 PM MT, which will see an on-ice fireworks display following the game’s action.
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