Owning the Oil

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

The body language said it all.

"These guys own us. They own the puck. And they own us."

In the second period, you could see it from the cheap seats.

And it's true. They do.

The Calgary Flames own the Edmonton Oilers. They have since Darryl Sutter showed up. They still do. And last night's 3-1 win was a matter of coming to collect the rent again. It's only January and once again the Calgary Flames have already won the season series.

With six of the eight games between the two teams now by the boards, Calgary has garnered nine points in the standings to Edmonton's four.

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The Flames are in first place in the division and third in the conference with 63 points. The Oilers are fourth in the division and clinging to the final playoff spot with 56.

THE DIFFERENCE

The difference -- as it was the last NHL season when Calgary went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final and the Oilers missed the playoffs -- is essentially the difference in the games between the two teams.

It's even more dramatic when you look at games in the division.

The Oilers are 9-9-0 versus teams in the NHL's toughest division. The Flames are now 14-3-2.

Any questions?

"They feed off us," said Shawn Horcoff.

"We knew when the season started that with eight games against teams in our division, particularly the eight games against Calgary, these games would be huge."

Coach Craig MacTavish put it another way. "To win the division, you have to win the games in the division. We're not there yet."

Hard on the puck was an expression heard again and again from the Oilers talking about the Flames last night.

"That's what makes them successful," said Mike Peca. "They win those battles. When we're not going good, we don't win those battles."

MacTavish agreed.

"They knocked us off the puck. They're good in the tough areas of the ice. Up to this point, going against them, we've failed in those areas. They handled us well in the tough areas."

Calgary showed up bigger, tougher, more intense, more emotional and more motivated.

Ethan Moreau said there's only one conclusion you can reach after that game.

"They are a better team than us right now."

Maybe other teams don't see it like the Oilers do because Darryl Sutter has made sure, since he took over as coach in Calgary, that these games mean more.

Edmonton hasn't been willing, or able, to match that.

"They learned how to win as a group," said Moreau of the playoffs two years ago.

"They have excellent goaltending and they know how to use him. They're hard on the puck. He wins games. Their work ethic and goaltending win them games."

St. Albert's Jarome Iginla came home and made a statement again. He dominated. He was a force. He stepped up and delivered the message that, while Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Jarret Stoll and Ryan Smyth came into the game with more points than he did, the Oilers don't have anybody of his equal up front.

And Miikka Kiprusoff, one of the best and most consistent goalies in the league, came in here and had a great game despite being outshot to win another goaltending battle -- not that you have to be Kiprusoff to be able to do that.

Switch goalies this season and the Oilers are a dozen points ahead of the Flames. But this wasn't a night to go there.

LOOKED LIKE LOSERS

The body language said more than the scoreboard. The Oilers looked like losers before they lost. And when Calgary bounced back with a goal 16 seconds after the Oilers tied it in the second period, they gave up the ghost then and there.

But that said, first it has to be said that the Oilers -- who are now 11-10-2 at home -- didn't arrive with anywhere near the same will to win.

The Oilers are a team which led the division and sat second in the conference at Christmas. They've won but four of 13 games since. The latest Battle of Alberta has already been won by the south. And this season is going south.


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