Yelle scored the tying goal, assisted on the go-ahead goal, had a key blocked shot and won a pivotal faceoff as the Flames edged the Edmonton Oilers 2-1, earning a split of their season-opening home-and-home series.
“Ever since his first game here, he’s come as advertised,” Flames coach Jim Playfair said about the 11-year veteran. “He’s a 2-1, game-winning kind of guy.”
Marcus Nilson’s winner came with 48 seconds left in the second period. From behind the net, Alex Tanguay centred a pass to Yelle, whose shot from the slot was stopped by Edmonton goaltender Dwayne Roloson. Nilson buried the rebound for his first of the season, giving Playfair his first NHL victory before a sell-out crowd of 19,289 .
Joffrey Lupul’s first goal as an Oiler provided the only offence for Edmonton, which defeated Calgary 3-1 Thursday night at Rexall Place.
“As a team we needed to rebound and play better,” Yelle said. “Tonight was a better effort.”
Yelle’s tying goal came with just eight seconds left in the first. Flames newcomer Jeff Friesen collected the puck in the corner, spun, and fired the puck towards the net where Yelle neatly steered it past Roloson.
With the Flames in the lead, Yelle got back to what he’s best known for in the third period.
Yelle dropped to the ice to block a dangerous slapshot from Marc-Andre Bergeron while killing a late third-period penalty. Then, with 23 seconds left in the game and Edmonton pouring on the pressure with the extra attacker, Yelle beat Jarrett Stoll on a pivotal faceoff deep in the Flames zone.
“I put him back out for that faceoff and we both knew how tired he was but he said ‘I can do it’ and he went out and won the faceoff,” Playfair.
Yelle and Nilson were unlikely heroes for the Flames, considering the duo combined for just 10 goals last season.
Special teams were the story of the second period.
Edmonton was whistled for four consecutive minor penalties to begin the period, but Calgary was unable to capitalize on the opportunities.
Right after that, Edmonton had a prime chance of its own with a two-man advantage for a full two minutes. However, the Oilers were unable to get a shot on goal until the final seconds when Stoll’s shot deflected on net off the stick of Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr.
“When you don’t capitalize on those, it normally stings you and that was as good of a turning point as any,” said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish.
Nilson was on the ice for the first half of that pivotal kill.
“You get in the passing lanes as much as you can and hope for the best,” said Nilson. “We knew (Petr) Sykora scored last game so we figured they were going to try and feed him again. A lot of times, you’re not going to kill two minutes like that, especially with the skill they have, but we did and ended up winning the game and that was a big part of it.”
Shawn Horcoff agreed that was the key sequence.
“We had a lot of open looks. A lot of it was over-passing,” Horcoff said. “They played pretty tight. When they play tight like that, you’ve got to take the shot.”
After giving up Lupul’s power-play goal 8:59 into the first period, Miikka Kiprusoff was perfect the rest of the way, finishing with 21 saves.
Roloson made 26 saves.
Notes: Calgary made one line-up change from opening night, inserting Jamie Lundmark at centre for Byron Ritchie. … Calgary D Rhett Warrener (knee) has begun practising but is not expected back for another week. … At home, Calgary is 7-0-1 against Edmonton since its last regulation time loss to the Oilers back on Mar. 11, 2003… Edmonton does not play again until Thursday night when it hosts the San Jose Sharks… Friesen has gone 18 games without a goal dating back to his time in Anaheim last season. … Smyth is three points away from 500 for his NHL career.