SUN Hockey Pool

A good first impression

Edmonton Oilers' Petr Sykora celebrates after scoring his first of two goals against the Calgary...

Edmonton Oilers' Petr Sykora celebrates after scoring his first of two goals against the Calgary Flames in NHL action at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

Conventional wisdom is that whoever wins the Battle of Alberta this season is likely to prevail in the 82-game ice war that is the chase for the Northwest Division title.

The Edmonton Oilers fired the first telling shot in their annual provincial skirmish with the Calgary Flames last night at Rexall Place, and it was Petr Sykora, a newcomer to the bidding for bragging rights, who squeezed the trigger.

Sykora scored two goals and added an assist in his debut in a 3-1 win for the Oilers in their 2006-07 lid-lifter.

A welcome first impression.

"I couldn't really expect a better start," said Sykora, whose second goal of the night stood as the winner.

"I was just on the right end of the line play and the team play tonight.

"I was the guy who got the rebound and got the shot. I just really enjoyed my first game. I can tell you that."

Sykora, who signed with Edmonton as a free agent in August, put two pucks behind Miikka Kiprusoff for the 29th two-goal game of his career. The seven-time 20-goal scorer has never had a hat-trick.

Dwayne Roloson made the second one stand up with 31 saves, sending the Oilers to Calgary for tomorrow's rematch with the early advantage.

"We all know how important a game against Calgary is," coach Craig MacTavish said. "As I said the other day, we know our team's success is through Calgary and vice-versa.

"We're in the same division and we both want the same things.

"We both have been in similar positions the last couple of years. It should be a great rivalry."

With the Oilers and Flames picked by many pundits to be powers in the Northwest Division, what happens between the teams will likely decide the pecking order.

And, with four of eight meetings between the teams this season coming before Jan. 1, it's never too early to get the upper hand.

The Flames won five of the eight games in last season's series.

"I was kind of more focused in on my first game," Sykora said. "When you play for a new team, the first game you're a little nervous and it's very special.

"The fans are unbelievable. It was loud.

"This is how you want to play hockey, with the fans behind you like that. You can feel it.

"It was one of the best experiences I've had."

Sykora didn't take long to make a first impression, putting the Oilers up 1-0 when he chipped a Raffi Torres rebound past Kiprusoff from the slot 14:43 into the game.

He notched the eventual winner at 17:49, a one-timer from the top of the circles with the Oilers on a 5-on-3 power play, then added an exclamation mark with an assist on Daniel Tjarnqvist's 3-0 goal.

"I got one already," smiled Sykora, asked why he hasn't been able to record a three-goal game in his career.

"My wife is pregnant, so that's the hat-trick for me. I'm happy enough."

AROUND THE RINK: Jarome Iginla's unsuccessful penalty shot in the first period was the 23rd against the Oilers in franchise history, with just five of those resulting in goals.


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