Edmonton – It’s up to the league to decide whether Rasmus Anderson will pay a higher price for what many saw as a header on Kyler Yamamoto.
What’s not up for debate is that the defender’s overzealous fervor played an important role in the end of the (last) opening night for the Flames.
In fact, a big price has already been paid, as double minor Andersson won after a reaction to Yamamoto’s bumping into Jacob Markstrom led to his first two Power Play goals from, you guessed it, Connor McDavid.
One night the Flames deserved so much recognition, McDavid’s third hat-trick in his career against the Flames was the teams.
However, when your franchise is on the run and has seen you lose 18 of its 19 season openers, including 12 in a row, hard breaks tend to be the norm.
The truth is, you take your own breaks when you overreact like Anderson did.
In a game that hosts Oilers 1-0 up late in the first period, Anderson was ruled out by Yamamoto’s late hit on Markstrom, throwing an elbow in the striker’s head before following the exchange into the corner.
Intentionally or unintentionally, Anderson appeared to drive his head as he slammed forward into the planks, before throwing several punches. Those responsible missed contact in the skull, and tackled Anderson with an elbow and harsh punishments.
It was the second offense that led to MacDavid’s inaugural release, a one-off roof job that only his second, unparalleled beauty has bested.
Playing in front of a noisy and crowded house for the first time in 18 months, it is understandable that players will improve quite a bit, especially against arch rivals.
But, header or not, Anderson went too far, which was immediately apparent by trying to battle the 5-foot-8, 153-pound winger.
“Maybe it’s true,” Sutter said when asked if his player had indulged a little at this moment, given the emotion of the occasion.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s something we talked about, being stronger around the goalkeeper this year. Last year we weren’t.”
Sutter has long made it clear that his goal is to ensure his team is difficult to tackle, which means penalties for over-aggression are expected.
Best of all, they haven’t faced the most powerful team in the world, thanks to a player who has now scored 26 goals in 31 regional fights.
“I thought we were very strong and did a lot of things we wanted to do,” said Sutter, whose team was as good as the Oilers in a game decided by two McDavid rockets.
“Probably two penalties – a double penalty (Anderson) and a penalty kick (Milan Lucic) – scored in both, were changes in momentum. We have to eliminate those, for sure.”
Thus, the Flames’ opening night tampering record runs to 12 games, just one of the low mark for major professional sports held by the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Browns.
Another streak is likely to be extended, as Anderson’s expected suspension will force The Flames to play their second game in a row without a player banned by the league.
Blake Coleman missed Saturday’s opener after suspending promotion before the season.
Coleman will be in the lineup for Monday’s home game against Anaheim.
Anderson probably won’t.
Sutter said he did not see the face-to-face contact.
Dave Tibbett did.
“I’m sure the league will look into it,” said the Oilers coach.
“I looked at him. For me, it’s a header, but the league will look at it. It is what it is.”
Anderson was not available by Flames after the match.
“You never want to be a player against these guys,” said Andrew Mangyapan, whose club took two out of four penalties in an entertaining game that saw the visiting team outmaneuver Edmonton 47-32.
“Obviously you have to manage your emotions, play between the whistles and everything after that, so be it.”
After the evening opened with a thrilling version of the National Anthem sung loudly by fans entering the center stage of the game, the delicious normalcy of booing Matthew Tkachuk, chants of “Loooooch” and chants of “Calgary Sucks” set the backdrop for a charged atmosphere that missed hockey much.
After losing 3-0 early in the second half, Flames’ tenacious sergeant was rewarded when Mangiapane took his money in his recovery midway through the match.
Elias Lindholm’s powerful shot early in the third half seemed to set the stage for a dramatic finish, until Jesse Polgoarvi ended the possibility after 26 seconds.
McDavid’s blank scorer capped a game in which he scored his ninth winner in 31 games against Calgary.
In Edmonton, No. 97 is understandably the talk of the town again.
In Calgary, Anderson’s fate will be the topic of the day.