All the right moves

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

EDMONTON - Jordan Eberle has heard a Canadian crowd roar before.

In consecutive IIHF World Juniors, he made himself a national hero with big goals for Canada. But now he knows what it feels like to do it in the NHL.

In his first ever regular season game under the big top with the Edmonton Oilers, his first game on Hockey Night In Canada, Eberle scored as gorgeous a first goal as just about anybody ever scored a first goal in an NHL career.

It was a shorthanded, double toe-drag across-the-crease double-ding-dong-dandy goal to remember forever.

“I saw it from the bench,” said Taylor Hall.

“It was just a great goal.

“When he toe-dragged it like that and then scored, I went nuts over it.”

Magnus Paajarvi raved as well.

“A lot of guys don’t score a goal like that their whole career.”

The Edmonton fans went nuts over just about every part of what happened last night as the Oilers scored a 4-0 stunner to open the season and begin a new era against the Calgary Flames.

It wasn’t just the freeze-frame remember-forever goal by Eberle. It was Hall’s first period heroics which could have produced a pair to meet and beat Kevin Lowe’s first goal in Oilers history when he first wore No. 4.

It was Nikolai Khabibulin’s shutout in goal.

It was a memorable, memorable hockey game right to the end when in the fourth fight of the night Steve SmackIntyre knocked out Ratitis Ivanans, knocked him into next week, with a fight that will go into the video vault for all time.

“The fans came to see a glimpse of the future and they got it,” said new captain Shawn Horcoff.

“I can’t think of a better way to open the season than that. I don’t know what you would have added to make it better.

But of all the Oilers who played a part in the rave review opening night, it was definitely Eberle who ended up the first star.

“It was pretty impressive,” said Horcoff. “He’s got that move. He did it in exhibition.”

The player the Oilers chose to twice return to junior with the Regina Pats with end of the season visits to the American Hockey League was upstaged by his linemate and roommate Taylor Hall who made an outstanding first impression.

“I think I did pretty well,” said Hall, who said he was remarkably calm all day “and pretty proud of that.”

If the Oilers first-ever No. 1 pick in the draft looked outstanding in the first period, he got a little carried away with himself in the second with a little footwork showboating which as begging somebody to fill him in.

But it was all part of having fun, he said.

“It was a tonne of fun. The crowd was really amazing.”

Eberle called it the loudest crowd he’d ever heard.

And he gave his goal high marks for artistic impression.

“It was one of my nicer goals for sure,” he said.

“It was one of the more special ones I’ve had.

“You don’t score your first NHL goal too many times.”

But Eberle said a lot has to happen to create a goal in the NHL and Hall could just as easily been the first of the three rookies to get his first.

“It took a little bit of luck to get it under his stick,” he said of Miikka Kiprusoff in the Calgary net.

“Vandermeer made a great play,” he added of the picture perfect breakout in which was fed with a pass up off the boards by Jim Vandermeer.

In the first period, you could see the future.

Maybe it was the adrenalin. Maybe it was youthful enthusiasm. Whatever it was the new era Oilers played at a palpitating pace. It was storming the barricades as the Oilers outshot the Flames 19-9.

In the second period, you could see what most people expect of the present as the team plays with all these kids on training wheels in front of an iffy defence as the Oilers were outshot 18-7.

But then Eberle scored the big one to make it 2-0 and sent the Oilers on the way. His goal was the turning point. He gets his name on the game.

“He’s very smart and has a very good hockey sense,” said coach Tom Renney.

“He processes the game at a high level. I just like the way he thinks the game.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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