Flames tame Oilers in provincial battle

The SportsXchange

CALGARY, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers may be the NHL's team of the future. The Calgary Flames don't appear ready to give up the title of being the best team in Alberta just yet.

The Flames took the first meeting of the provincial rivals with a 4-3 victory Saturday night at the Saddledome.

It's Calgary's first win of the season.

The Oilers, with their plethora of youngsters -- including the last three first overall draft picks in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov -- are considered a team on the rise.

You can bet the bankroll the Flames have heard all the high praise their rivals are receiving and wanted to quiet the chorus.

"The two best teams to beat, I think without question, are Vancouver and Edmonton," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, whose hometown is just outside Edmonton. "There's no question about that. The wins feel a little bit better than a normal win and the losses feel a little bit worse.

"I still have buddies up there I couldn't convert -- after 15 years, I've given up trying to convert some of them, so it is nice to beat them so they don't have any bragging rights."

Lee Stempniak scored once in a three-point night, and Mikael Backlund, Jay Bouwmeester and Curtis Glencross also had goals for the Flames, who put together their best game of the season.

"We had a full 60-minute effort," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "We played with a lot of pressure. We skated very well. I felt we had great legs, great jump. We got timely goals and Kipper (goalie Miikka Kiprusoff) made some great saves.

"We knew it would be a battle because they're a good skating team. We knew we needed to jump on them from the start and we were able to."

Justin Schultz, Jordon Eberle and Sam Gagner scored for the Oilers, who are in a win-one, lose-one rut to start this season.

Gagner's goal came with two seconds remaining, so all it did was make the final score closer than the should have been.

"You have to give them credit, they came hard," Gagner said. "But at the same time we gave them the opportunity to do that by turning pucks over. We gave them too much and after that it seemed like we were on our heels."

The Oilers, who haven't finished above the Flames in the standings since the 2002-03 season, have been dominated by Calgary in recent years.

The Flames have won 10 of the last 11 meetings at the Saddledome, and this clash was simply a case of beating the youngsters at their own game with a speedy forecheck that hemmed the Oilers in their own zone for long spells.

"They play us hard here," Oilers netminder Devan Dubnyk said. "We'll take a lesson from this and realize we're going to just have to play a greasy road game next time. That's how you have to win in this building. You play a solid game and chip away and capitalize when you get chances. We have to take a page from how they played."

Kiprusoff stopped 32 shots for the Flames (1-2-1), and Dubnyk made 16 saves for the Oilers (2-2-0).

NOTES: The Flames had two players making their season debut. Jiri Hudler, a free-agent acquisition from the Detroit Red Wings, missed the first three games due to the death of his father on the eve of the season. Roman Cervenka also saw his first action for Calgary. A star in Eurasia's Kontinental Hockey League the past two seasons, Cervenka's delay was caused by blood clots and resulting treatment after he blocked a shot in a KHL game in November. Hudler collected his first point as a Flame with a second-period assist. ... The Oilers have surrendered the first goal in all four games this season. They've fallen behind 2-0 in three of their four games, too. ... Edmonton's power play has been deadly to start the season. The Oilers have scored on the man-advantage in all four of their games and they've already twice netted at least two goals on the power play. ... The Flames have also scored at least one power-play goal in all four of their games.
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