Flames Clinch Battle of Alberta

Fourth Win Of Season Against Oilers 

December 28th, 2003
Rick Charlton

There couldn't have been a better anniversary gift for Flames coach Darryl Sutter than a 2-1 systematic dissection of the Oilers in front of a sellout crowd of 16,839 last night in Edmonton.

It's been a few weeks since the Flames rewarded their bench mentor with a smothering effort of the quality they delivered against the Oilers, Calgary limiting Edmonton to only eight shots through two periods and riding the 20 save goaltending of Miikka Kiprusoff to their fourth road win in a row.

Saprykin Lombardi Iginla
Gelinas McAmmond Donovan
Green Yelle Clark
Oliwa Morgan Lowry
Regehr Leopold
Montador Warrener
Lydman Ference

Calgary's defensive game had gone in the crapper lately, the Flames giving up 30 or more shots in five consecutive games after allowing that many only twice in the previous 28.

In fact, it was only earlier in the week the Flames were broadly outplayed by the Oilers through the final two periods of a fortuitous 2-1 Calgary victory, a game symptomatic of all that had been sliding with the red shirts of late.

The ship righted itself in Edmonton, however, Calgary delivering just the kind of patient, defence first effort Sutter has been preaching his first 365 days on the job.

"We knew that coming in that we were winning games but we weren't playing our best hockey," analyzed Calgary winger Shean Donovan after the game, pointing out Calgary had actually won four of the last five in spite of failing to playing in a largely disjointed manner compared to earlier efforts.

After finishing last year at 19-18-7-1, a record that included disastrous unbalanced losses as well as improbable wins, a sure sign of a team battling on emotion rather than consistency of purpose, Sutter's message had been sinking in to increasing effectiveness as the months on the calendar have flown by.

As a result, Calgary has been far more predictable defensively this year, the recent stretch being the lone exception, the Flames leading the Western Conference in fewest goals allowed.

That has been the bottom line impact of Sutter's hiring in Calgary, a Flames team that is in pretty much every game it plays, giving itself a chance to win every night in spite of scoring two or fewer goals in 19 of 34 starts this year.

The victory left Calgary at 19-10-2-3 on the year, good for 43 points and fifth place in the NHL's hotly contested Western Conference, Flames leapfrogging the Colorado Avalanche with the win.

Three Flames are three points behind division leading Vancouver with two games in hand and are five points into a playoff spot with Dallas and Nashville charging hard and 10th place Minnesota undefeated in its last seven.

Jarome Iginla notched a goal and an assist in leading the Flames, prompted perhaps by Flyers GM Bobby Clarke saying in a Philadelphia paper earlier in the day that Calgary GM Sutter had been shopping the Calgary star last month.

Dean McAmmond was the beneficiary of a perfect pass from the boards by Iginla, one-timing a hot blast high on Oilers goaltender Tommy Salo from the slot at 18:04 of the second period.

Iginla added to Calgary's lead at 8:06 of the third, breaking down the wing on a two on one and blowing a shot through Salo for a 2-0 Calgary edge.

Mike York brought the Oilers back within one on the powerplay at 14:54 of the third period but Calgary was able to smother the Oilers the rest of the way.

The victory was the fourth in five games for the Flames this season versus the Oilers, Calgary clinching the series for the second straight year with only one contest remaining.

Flames fans will delight in knowing the win restored Calgary's 11 point edge on the Oilers, burying the Oilers out of sight, for the moment at least, with half a season left to play.

Flames were zero for three on the power play while the Oilers scored on one of their two chances.

It doesn't get any easier as the Flames return to Calgary for a contest tomorrow night against the charging Minnesota Wild, undefeated in their last seven games and only seven points behind Calgary in the standings.





1) Jarome Iginla - Tonight, he was a $7 million player, a brilliant pass on the first goal and a thundering shot to score the clincher.

2) Miikka Kiprusoff - Oh, what to do with Roman Turek, paid like a number one goaltender but staring at the statistics and big time saves of Kiprusoff.

3) Tommy Salo - A bit of a dog this season but hot the last few games, including this one where he kept the Oilers close enough for a dramatic finish.

In a physical affair, there were any number of hits that might have qualified but Scott Ferguson's drilling of Martin Gelinas into the end glass near the end of the second period was a highlight.

With the Flames holding a narrow 1-0 edge early in the third period, Ryan Smyth was sprung loose on a shorthanded breakaway but his deke failed to fool Kiprusoff. The save would later prove decisive.

Darryl Sutter took a roundhouse at Vancouver's Trevor Linden in the FAN960 pre-game show, wondering aloud why the President of the NHLPA was calling for the suspension of one of his flock, Denis Gauthier. . . . . . Chuck Kobasew was a healthy scratch, his place taken by Dave Lowry. . . . . It's just a hockey play gone bad," said Gauthier after the game regarding his hit on Vancouver's Sami Salo that resulted in a two game suspension. "A minor injury came out of it. There was no intent there. I feel I'm an honest, hard-working player and accidents do happen." . . . . . . In an amusing twist, the Oilers, Canucks and Flames played each other the last few days and all came out with records of 1-1. Not bad for the Flames and Canucks but not good enough for the 13th place Oilers. . . . . Jordan Leopold continues to assert himself as a budding workhorse, leading the Flames with 25:22 in ice time. Steve Staios led the Oil with 24:51 in ice time . . . . . Edmonton was 57% in the faceoff circle led by Shawn Horcoff's 68%. Dean McAmmond and Stephane Yelle were 58% each for the Flames.

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