Vultures are circlin'

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

CALGARY -- Midway in the first period a bird buzzed the press box inside the Saddledome.

"What was that?" asked one scribe.

"Pigeon, I think," said another.

"If it's a vulture, tell him to grab a chair and join the rest of us," said another.

It wasn't a game where the winner was going to be a story. The scribes were there to circle over the carcass of the loser.

The Stanley Cup finalist Calgary Flames -- playing with the 30th-ranked power play and the 30th-ranked penalty killing unit in the league -- had won but two games going into this one. And they're heading out on a tour of the Pacific Division with Dallas-L.A. and Anaheim-Phoenix back-to-backs before finishing it off in San Jose.

HIT THE ROAD

The Edmonton Oilers came here on a four-game losing streak to begin an 11 of 13 stretch on the road. After a game at home against Colorado tonight, only Columbus interrupts a Colorado-Dallas-Nashville-Detroit-St. Louis-Dallas-Nashville-Columbus-Chicago-Colorado road run.

It was one of those games, if you will, where a loss would do more harm than a win would do good.

Calgary 3, Edmonton 1.

If the Oilers did as good a job playing the Flames as they did spin doctoring the loss after the game, the result might have been different.

Knowing what he was dealing with here, coach Craig MacTavish had his team spend the post-game media opportunities selling the idea that they didn't really lose.

"With the funk we're in, we're going to take it as a positive," said Steve Staios.

A couple more stops around the Oilers dressing room and it was obvious that versions of what would be the official team quote for the night.

"We did what we wanted," said MacTavish.

"We had a good start. We played well enough here again to get the win. The encouraging part is that we're back to playing the same hockey as we were at the start of the season," said the coach.

"The two games in the building have been very close and we've been outscored 6-1.

"We played well and didn't get the bounces."

MacTavish was right about one thing.

For the longest time there it looked like the Edmonton Oilers were back to being the club which started the season 3-0. They owned the puck in the first period. But they didn't rent the net.

In the end it was Edmonton's power play and penalty killing -- both ranked No. 19 in the league going into the game -- which again didn't come through.

The Oilers were 0-6 on the power play to make it 1-for-31 to put assistant coach Craig Simpson back on the hot seat where we left him with a 29th-ranked power play the last time there was an NHL season.

The Flames killed a four-minute Oilers power play. The game turned on that.

Miikka Kiprusoff, who had a 33-save, 3-0 shutout over the Oilers here last week, extended it to 44 straight saves before Fernando Pisani scored the only Oilers goal.

The Oilers have scored once on 62 shots on the guy in two games.

That's not even 2%.

"We're missing Ryan on the power play in front of the net," said MacTavish of Smyth, a man you can now wager will be in the line-up tonight against Colorado.

ENTIRELY DIFFERENT TAKE

Jarome Iginla and the Flames had an entirely different take on the result, of course.

"That's a pretty good effort to take with us on the road. We needed that one so we wouldn't start to get down. Now we can go on the road and stay positive. That was a big one."

The bottom line is that Darryl Sutter, is now 9-1-1-1 against the Oilers since taking over as head coach of the Flames.

The Flames, who took 11 of 12 points from the Oilers in 2003-04, have now taken four of four so far this season.

Instead of being four points behind the Oilers, the Flames are now tied with Edmonton. And the Oilers can tell themselves whatever they want.

They've lost five games in a row no matter how MacTavish wants to pretty up the picture.

They've now officially taken over from the Flames as the Alberta team in deep do-do.

That's what this game was all about. The loser was going to leave here with you know what on their boots.


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