EDMONTON — The Calgary Flames’ early-season struggles are snowballing,.
Turns out, they didn’t fare any better outdoors.
After Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the arch-rival Edmonton Oilers in the 2023 Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium, the Flames have now dropped five in a row. In this case, there were upwards of 55,000 witnesses.
Nazem Kadri and A.J. Greer did the lamp-lighting for the Flames in this under-open-skies edition of the Battle of Alberta, while there were no concerns that Jacob Markstrom might catch a chill in the visiting crease. He was peppered with 34 shots.
The Flames had yet to test Stuart Skinner, the temperature hadn’t even faded to below zero, when old friend Brett Kulak buried a rebound to stake the Oilers to an early lead.
The hosts continued to build momentum by killing off an 81-second stretch of five-on-three and shortly after Leon Draisaitl was released from the sin-bin, he set up Zach Hyman for a beauty on a two-on-one rush.
Kadri replied for the Flames, finally sniping his first of the season with a dandy deflection at the end of a power-play, but Evan Bouchard soon restored the two-goal edge with a rocket from the blue-line.
Greer’s first goal in a Flaming C logo was the product of a superb individual effort by defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, splitting a pair of flat-footed opponents and firing a shot on net. Greer, claimed off waivers earlier this month from the Boston Bruins, was on clean-up duties, shovelling home the rebound. With Vincent Desharnais just about to step out of the penalty box, Calgary’s second of the evening also counted as a man-advantage marker.
The Flames were threatening to flip the script as the third period started, but any hopes of a comeback were likely quashed when Desharnais bounced a shot through traffic and under the cross-bar, benefitting from the sort of wacky hop that is a reality of playing in the Great Outdoors.
Evander Kane sealed the result with a late empty-netter.
Connor McDavid, returning from a two-game absence due to an upper-body injury, finished with one assist.
The Flames will try to avoid a sixth straight setback Wednesday, when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Saddledome (6:30 p.m. MT, Sportsnet One/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).
On X: @WesGilbertson
Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org