It wasn’t the best of outings for Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
But it was a winning one.
Markstrom let in six of 28 shots for a .786 save percentage in a wild, up-and-down, rollercoaster affair in Game 1 of the Battle of Alberta against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
Turns out, letting in five goals through two periods might’ve sparked the Swedish tender.
As weird as that sounds.
“He said before the third, ‘You guys keep doing your thing, I’m going to shut the door for you’ and that’s exactly what he did,” Matthew Tkachuk said postgame. “He’s been our MVP all year. It’s on us for pretty much every goal that went in earlier, whether it was turnover or not working or just mental mistakes.
“He’s been our MVP throughout this last however long. We have so much confidence in him and the way he was able to shut the door and calm things down in the third really helped get us that win.”
Markstrom acknowledged his intermission comments Thursday.
With a caveat.
“Yeah, I thought five would be enough but obviously they got the sixth to tie it up right away,” said Markstrom, a Vezina trophy candidate. “But I mean, the guys responded, the guys were great in front of me. obviously, I have to be better, everyone knows that, myself included, but to have a game like that in the playoffs and still come out with a win, that’s a good feeling.
“The guys definitely bailed me out, so now we’re excited for tomorrow.”
Edmonton scored on its second shot of the third period to tie the game 6-6. It came off the stick of Kailer Yamamoto, who swatted in a rebound after Markstrom made a sprawling right-pad save to shut down Connor McDavid.
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The blemish was his only one of the final frame.
Markstrom stopped the next eight shots, helping ease some tension as the Flames eventually rebounded to cruise to win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series in what became the highest-scoring playoff Battle of Alberta bout ever.
Still, he knows he can be better.
“I think it’s easy to move on since we got the win,” said Markstrom, who posted a 1.53 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in a seven-game series win in the opening round of the playoffs against the Dallas Stars.
“We’re up 1-0 but it’s going to be tough and I need to raise my game and you just have to bear down and see what you need to feel better, play better and get it done.”
He’s done it before. Just not against the Oilers.
At least, not this season.
Markstrom posted abysmal marks against Edmonton in the regular season, managing a 3.54 goals-against average and .884 save percentage in four starts.
The good news is he won two of those games despite the inflated numbers.
A third in the playoffs now, too, when it matters most.
“He’s one of the best goalies in the league and he bailed us out a couple of times against Dallas and it was our time to return the favour,” Flames forward Elias Lindholm said. “You know, we’re feeling good every time he’s in the net and he’s been playing great all season.
“So, stuff like that’s going to happen.”