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 to earn 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 go-ahead score 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 goalie Dwayne Roloson. Nilson buried the rebound for his first score of the season to give Playfair his first NHL victory before a sellout crowd of 19,289.
Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 21 shots for the Flames.
Joffrey Lupul’s first goal with the Oilers provided the only offense 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 8 seconds left in the first period. Flames newcomer Jeff Friesen got the puck in the corner, spun, and fired it toward the net, where Yelle put 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 said.
Edmonton committed four consecutive minor penalties to begin the second period, but Calgary was unable to capitalize on the opportunities, which included a two-man advantage for 56 seconds.
After Calgary squandered its chance to take the lead, Edmonton had an opportunity prime chance of its own with a two-man advantage for a full 2 minutes. However, the Oilers were unable to get anything on Kiprusoff until the waning seconds, when Jarret Stoll’s shot deflected on net off the stick of Flames defenseman Robyn Regehr.
“When you don’t capitalize on those, it normally stings you and that was as good of a turning point as any,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said.
Jarome Iginla had an excellent chance to break the 1-1 tie in the second, facing an empty net after a brilliant setup by Tanguay. However, the Flames’ captain lifted his shot off the crossbar.
After giving up Lupul’s power-play goal 8:59 into the first period, Kiprusoff was perfect the rest of the way. He also the benefited from some good luck when a shot by Shawn Horcoff hit Lupul’s skate in the crease and deflected away.
“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.”
Roloson finished with 26 saves.
Calgary made one lineup change from opening night, inserting Jamie Lundmark at center for Byron Ritchie. … Calgary D Rhett Warrener (knee) has begun practicing but is not expected back for another week. … Calgary is 7-0-1 at hme 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 San Jose. … Friesen has not scored a goal in his last 18 games, dating back to his time in Anaheim last season. … Smyth is three points away from 500 for his NHL career.