Oilers never gave up

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

It was a casual conversation with a passing player in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room.

"Nice to see Miikka Kiprusoff was human. Not as human as your guy, but

The player in question looked over his shoulder as he passed.

"You said it, not me."

Somehow, someway, despite four ghastly goals, the first three given up by Mike Morrison, the Edmonton Oilers scored their first regulation win over the Calgary Flames in forever.

O.K.. It was, the second regulation win in the 14 games since Darryl Sutter took over as Calgary coach.

It was a wild and crazy, but nowhere near stereotypical, Battle of Alberta game as the Oilers scored a 5-4 win.

It was also the end of the great goaltender experiment of the Oilers trying to win their division with three back-up goalies.

Morrison wasn't sent down before the midnight Christmas roster freeze last night. But Jussi Markkanen just got promoted to No. 1 and Ty Conklin back to No. 2 with Morrison transferred to limbo.

"This can be a pretty cruel profession, but no," said coach Craig MacTavish of giving Morrison a plane ticket back to the Eastern League inside his Christmas card.

But Morrison will be joining us in the press box after starting his second straight game and allowing three awful goals on 10 shots to go with his two terrible goals on four shots in Vancouver.

FIRST TWO GOALS

The first two goals were bad enough, but the third, on the first shot of the second period, was a trickler through the pads. Twenty seconds later Markkanen came in cold and gave up another trickler and a 4-2 lead.

For the second big game in a row, the Oilers stormed back and managed to get Morrison off the hook and the only goalie sitting in limbo with a 5-1 record.

"There's a lot of pressure and Mike handled it well until the last couple of games," said MacTavish. "But we had to put him in and see how he'd handle it in this kind of a situation. We wanted to give him the opportunity."

And then he made what amounted to 'The Announcement.'

"We'll see the other two guys now. We'll see Jussi play the next one in Vancouver and Ty will probably play Friday back here against Los Angeles."

Markkanen, with his two relief wins in two huge divisional games, is now going to get his first real chance to prove what he can do in the NHL as a starter.

While you'd be hard pressed to find a fan who believes he can take the team to the promised land, it would also be difficult to find many who don't think he can get them into the playoffs in a position where they haven't been for a long, long time.

Heck, he just put them in that position.

The Oilers, when they get on the plane to Vancouver today, will read a set of standings in which Edmonton and Calgary are tied with 42 points, two points behind the Vancouver Canucks.

COMING FROM BEHIND

"We've come from behind in the last three games," said Shawn Horcoff, who scored two last night.

"We never give up. We have a deep team and we work hard and we make teams tired by the third period. When they're tired they make mistakes," he added.

While Horcoff went 18 without a goal until he scored against Vancouver, maybe Igor Ulanov scoring two, too, was a better story.

"He's lethal," laughed the coach of his defenceman with the minus-9 in the plus-minus charts.

"He's very dangerous at both ends."

The best part of this for the Oilers, who have only two regulation-time losses in their last 20 games, is that this was a regulation win.

"There's been a stigma there," said MacTavish.

"We can't cut it any closer, that's for sure," he said of Fernando Pisani's winner with 45 seconds to go.

MacTavish said the biggest difference with this team now is the skill level.

"It's the skill level," he said. "Experience plays into it, but the higher skill level is the predominant factor.

"The skill level shows itself in the power play. We don't come back to win either of those last two games if we don't have the power play."

There was also Kiprusoff.

"I saw him on his back on a Horcoff goal. Good teams beat good goaltending and overcome bad goaltending."


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