SUN Hockey Pool

The Sutter Formula

Shawn Horcoff (top) and Ales Hemsky celebrate Horcoff's goal on Sunday. SUN MEDIA/Jason Franson

Shawn Horcoff (top) and Ales Hemsky celebrate Horcoff's goal on Sunday. SUN MEDIA/Jason Franson

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

Going back to his days as a coach in San Jose, Calgary GM Darryl Sutter has always pointed to a simple formula when deciding why one team lost and another team won.

He says it almost always boils down to the same thing: If your team's best players are better than the other team's best players, you win.

If not, you lose.

That's why they get the big bucks.

Last night at Rexall Place, Sutter watched Edmonton's big guns relegate Hart Trophy candidate Jarome Iginla, Western Conference All-Star Dion Phaneuf, perennial Oiler-killer Miikka Kiprusoff and the rest of the Calgary Flames to second best in the latest instalment of the Battle of Alberta.

Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Mathieu Garon, Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner led the way in a 2-1 victory that extended Edmonton's win streak to four games and bumped them to .500 (21-21-4).

"This was as complete a game as we've played from start to finish," said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, who got big nights from everyone on his team, and exceptional nights from his stars.

FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN

"When your good players are outplaying the other team's best players, you're generally winning a lot of games."

Like, four in a row.

And the leaders, who've been at the head of the charge since the streak began, were there again last night.

Horcoff had a goal and an assist for eight points in the last four games.

Stoll, in addition to getting his fifth point in six games, went 12-1 in the faceoff circle.

Garon was every bit as good as Kiprusoff, something the Oilers don't often get to say about their goalie in games with Calgary.

And Hemsky, in picking up his sixth and seventh points in four games since coming back from a knee injury, was on another level last night, as feisty and determined as Rexall Place has ever seen him.

"He's a great player," said Sheldon Souray. "You don't expect guys of his skill level and status to start throwing the body around, he's not that kind of player.

"But in a game where we needed some big efforts from some big guys he played outside his comfort zone. He battled for pucks against big defencemen and was winning those battles. And the goal he scored was just another highlight goal."

HEMSKY FLYIN'

It was also poetic justice. After taking a late hit in the corner from Robyn Regehr, Hemsky, after the very next faceoff, blew plast the Flames defencemen like he wasn't there and undressed Kiprusoff for the goal of the night.

"Regehr was caught a little bit there, he was standing still," grinned Hemsky. "I tried to go around him and take it to the net. Tried some moves and it went in."

The Flames were taking it to Hemsky all game, so he took it right back to them.

"Sometimes in a game like that you get a couple of hits, it pisses you off and you can get in the game," he said.

"They have a good team so it's a huge win for us. We played really good tonight, one of the best games we've had all year."

In goal, the Oilers didn't have to worry about watching an effort that was good enough to get them a win go down the drain because Kiprusoff stole one, try as he did last night. Garon was every bit as good.

"You go into the third up a couple of goals, it's no small task to beat him now the way he's playing," said MacTavish.

"You have to beat him three times in that period to win a hockey game and that's a tough task right now the way that he's playing."


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