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Calgary Flames’ Milan Lucic ejected from Game 3 loss for blaming Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith


Mike Smith was half a period away from shutting out the Calgary Flames in Game 3 of Edmonton’s second-round Stanley Cup playoff series on Sunday.

And then came Milan Lucic.

Calgary was trailing 4-0 midway through the third period when Lucic slammed into Smith as he played the puck behind the Edmonton net.

The collision was severe enough that NHL concussion observers forced Smith out of the game to be assessed. Smith was clearly furious with the decision, arguing unsuccessfully with the referees to stay in the crease. He eventually exited, replaced by substitute Mikko Koskinen.

Lucic was given a five-minute penalty for charging and a game misconduct – an automatic ejection – for his part in the incident. But after the Flames’ eventual 4-1 loss, Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said he believed Lucic made a real effort to cushion the blow.

“They called [it a penalty for] recharge, right? Can you imagine if Looch had charged? Sutter said. “What would have happened there? He actually tried to slow it down a bit, I think. But that’s what it is, that’s the score [being 4-0] and who it was and that’s what they called it.”

Smith was also confused as to how this game was rated.

“I don’t think my head hit anything,” he said. “My helmet fell off, but I did not receive a blow to the head. I didn’t really know what had happened.

Prior to that, the veteran goaltender was finally in his element after a rocky start in the Battle of Alberta. Smith was taken out of Game 1 after allowing three goals on nine shots in a 9-6 loss to the Oilers. He rebounded well with a 37-save performance in a 5-3 Game 2 win and had made 28 saves on Sunday before being retired.

Koskinen spent just 4:19 in front of the net – and faced no shots – before Smith came back to a standing ovation. He gave up a goal, to Oliver Kylington, after his return, but was otherwise a goalless goal.

On any other night, Smith’s comings and goings might have been enough for goalie drama. This was not the case in the third game. By the end, all four goalkeepers from both teams had made appearances.

By the time Smith left, Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom had already been retired after allowing four goals — all in the second period — on 34 shots (.882 SV%). Flames backup Dan Vladar was in goal for the third.

It was a turbulent series overall for Markstrom, who allowed 11 goals in Games 1 and 2 (.838 SV%). Markstrom’s sensational regular season (.922 SV%, 2.22 GAA) made him a Vezina Trophy finalist, and he played the role in the first period of Game 3, making all 21 saves.

Edmonton, however, opened the floodgates after just 52 seconds into the second period. Zach Hyman was first on the board, then Evander Kane had a natural hat trick in just six minutes. Leon Draisaitl had four points on the night. Connor McDavid had three.

Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft seemed interested in Sutter’s handling of Markstrom after Game 3, pointing out that while Smith was limited by injuries in the regular season, Markstrom had played a lot of hockey.

“Mike Smith only played 28 regular season games and 10 in the playoffs,” Woodcroft said. “He is 38 years old and is fit at mid-season. He hasn’t played 63 games [during] the season and have the wear to match.”

Edmonton now leads the best-of-seven series 2-1. Game 4 is Tuesday.

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