The Edmonton Oilers appear to have shored up their defense under new head coach Ken Hitchcock.
Mikko Koskinen made 24 saves in his third shutout of the season and Connor McDavid scored the only goal as the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Calgary Flames 1-0 on Sunday.
“It takes a lot of effort to play good defense, especially against a team like that that has so many skilled, offensive players,” Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson said.
“I think we’re playing a little tighter, and it’s easier to close the games. Even when we were up two goals in the beginning of the season, we would tend to give up chances still, even when we tried to close games out. I don’t feel like we’re doing that now.”
The Oilers have won three straight and have gone 6-1-0 in their last seven games.
“I like how we stayed with it when we got an early lead. We didn’t try to flex out. We got quality chances in the first period from playing the right way,” said Hitchcock, who owns a 7-2-1 record since taking over for Todd McLellan.
“I like the way we protected the lead in the third period, especially. That to me is where we’re learning how to play as a unit of five, not spread out. That’s a good sign.”
The Flames had a five-game winning streak snapped, and are 9-2-1 in their last 12 outings.
“I’m not happy with the result, but I am happy with our weekend,” said Flames head coach Bill Peters, whose team defeated Nashville 5-2 on Saturday. “It just looked like we were running on fumes a little bit tonight.”
David Rittich made 29 saves in a losing effort for Calgary.
“It’s always the worse kind of loss, a 1-0 game,” said Rittich. “We didn’t play our game. We just need to be better than that.”
Edmonton got going 12 minutes into the opening period with some nice passing by the top line. Alex Chiasson fed McDavid at the side of the net and the Oilers’ captain sent his 16th goal of the season past Flames goalie David Rittich.
The Oilers came out flying in the second, but Rittich made huge breakaway saves on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl.
Calgary looked to have tied it up midway through the middle period, but Anthony Peluso was flagged with goaltender interference on Koskinen after the video review.
McDavid came close to adding another goal on the power play with four minutes left in the third, but rang his shot off the crossbar.
NOTES: It was the second of four meetings between the Alberta rivals with Calgary scoring three third-period goals in a come-from-behind 4-2 victory on Nov. 17. . The Flames were without a couple of key players as forward Mikael Backlund is out with a concussion, while defenseman Mark Giordano was serving part of a two-game suspension for kneeing Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu.
Flames: Host Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Oilers: At Colorado on Tuesday.
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