Flatlined in Cowtown

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

CALGARY -- For about the first seven minutes last night, Edmonton looked pretty scrappy. Then they dropped the 's.'

After three quick fights against Calgary, the hapless Oilers spent the rest of the night fighting the puck.

The puck won.

'ANSWERED THE BELL'

"I was happy with the way that we answered the bell physically, but from a skill perspective, we failed," said head coach Craig MacTavish, after the Flames checked Edmonton to a frustrating standstill last night at the Saddledome.

"We were looking most of the game for something good to happen for our hockey club, and we were looking a long time."

The 4-1 score flattered Edmonton like they were the last girl left in a pickup joint. It was all Flames all the time. Calgary led 1-0 on the scoreboard and 11-3 on the shotclock after 20 minutes and jumped ahead 3-0 in goals and 21-6 in shots after 40.

With 8:41 left in the third period, Edmonton still only had nine shots on net.

"We did what we needed to do physically, we were ready to play the game, but every pass we tried to make, it was like we needed lacrosse sticks," said MacTavish, whose team still would have lost if Calgary was protecting a soccer net.

"It's partially due to the way they checked us, but a lot of it was to do with the missed execution. Even when the defence were able to get the pucks to the forwards, we mangled the passes through the neutral zone.

"We did a lot of things away from the game well, but between the whistles we were a little lacking."

With everyone hoping for good old Battle of Alberta, the teams obliged. The Oilers had Zack Stortini in the opening lineup and the sound system in the Saddledome pumped out AC/DC's If You Want Blood.

There wasn't any in the first period, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Seven minutes into the game there were just as many fighting majors as shots - six. Ethan Moreau dropped Dion Phaneuf, Ladislav Smid got into it with Matthew Lombardi and Matt Greene scrapped Eric Godard.

There's no doubt the Oilers were juiced for this one.

"If you have come into the lockerroom before the game you never would have thought the score would be like this," sighed defenceman Tom Gilbert. "We were ready to go from the start, we just didn't execute very well."

After they got the rough stuff out of their system, the two teams settled down and played some hockey, which turned out to be bad news for the Oilers because that's when they started taking it on the chin.

Owen Nolan scored twice, Phaneuf had a goal and an assist to go with his fight and Miikka Kiprusoff had the night off as Calgary made amends for last weeks 5-0 loss at Rexall Place.

"They were doing what we were doing against them in Edmonton," said Gilbert.

And then some.

Edmonton looked like they'd never seen a net before. They couldn't break out of their own zone, couldn't generate anything off their turnovers and couldn't establish any sort of cycle. And on the rare occasions when they did stumble into an odd man rush, they quickly turned something into nothing. Three times in the second period alone they came out of two-on-one breaks without even getting a shot on net.

"We expected them to come out hard against us," said Fernando Pisani. "We weren't able to make clean breakouts and just couldn't get any sustained pressure in their end.

"I thought we played really hard, a lot of guys stepped up physically, which is good to see, but it's not the outcome we wanted."

WEREN'T COMING BACK

After two periods it was clear to everyone in the building that the Oilers weren't coming back. Robert Nilsson broke Kiprusoff's shutout bid, and Jarome Iglina made it 4-1 on an empty netter.

"They just didn't really give us much," understated Ethan Moreau. "That, combined with our inability to move the puck made it a long night for us."


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