JD survives test

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

CALGARY -- It was sink or swim when Craig MacTavish threw Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers into the deep end last night, where 20 Calgary Flames did everything they could to drag him under.

But anytime it seemed like he might be taking in a few gulps of water, the rest of the Oilers rushed to his aid like Pam Anderson and David Hasselhoff, giving him all the life support he needed with a wave of timely goals.

GOOD, NOT GREAT

"It felt great, first start first win, you can't expect anything better," said Drouin-Deslauriers, who stopped 26 of 29 shots in a 4-3 victory.

"The guys played unbelievable in front of me. I let in two tough goals, but they came back strong for me, and the power play was unbelievable."

Drouin-Deslauriers was good, not great, but his teammates were outstanding. The Oilers, who've looked better every game they've played this year, improved to 3-0.

"That's how we have to play if we want to win," said Robert Nilsson, who was all over the ice despite a bad foot. "Every time we had the lead last year we seemed to find a way to lose. This year we have a better team.

"This is exactly how we want to play. Every guy on the team did his job and JD, first game and first win, we couldn't ask anything more from him."

It was a move that seemed a little odd, throwing a raw rookie into the first chapter of the Battle of Alberta on the road, but maybe it wasn't when you consider that Drouin-Deslauriers stopped 43 out of 47 shots in his last preseason game here.

So, out of the frying pan and into the Flames, he went.

"They showed ... appreciation to put me in a great rivalry, Edmonton and Calgary," said Drouin-Deslauriers, struggling to find the right word in English.

"It's always something special, your first NHL start. Preseason is something, but the regular season is something very different."

The 24-year-old second-round draft pick (31st in 2002) didn't seem that nervous at the morning skate, nor on the bus ride to the game, or in the crease when the pucks started flying.

Not even after Calgary scored on its second shot of the game, a long deflection at 2:43.

"He looked comfortable early, and that's the one thing I wanted to see in him," said MacTavish. "It's a learning process. It takes a lot of courage to stand in an NHL net under these circumstances. You need the experience and this was the first step in getting that experience."

He wanted Calgary's second goal back, a David Moss shot that beat him short side from a long way out, but Edmonton's offence bailed him out. Andrew Cogliano put Edmonton on the board and Erik Cole, Lubomir Visnovsky and Nilsson scored consecutive power-play goals to put Edmonton up 4-2 after 40 minutes.

The Oilers had to hold the fort in the third. Sheldon Souray didn't return for the final 20 minutes and after taking five straight minors in the second, the Flames were due plenty of breaks.

Sure enough, back-to-back power plays set the stage for Todd Bertuzzi's goal to make it 4-3 in the third, but that's as close as they could get. Drouin-Deslauriers preserved the win by robbing Daymond Langkow with the splits late in the game.

'GOOD SIGN'

"There's a couple he'd like to see again," said MacTavish. "But the nice thing is we had the offence, which is a good sign in terms of our team's ability to score goals."

MacTavish won't say what Souray's injury is, only that it's "not a long-term thing" but he was limping after the game and is doubtful for tonight.

LATE HITS: KEVIN LOWE, THE ASSISTANT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CANADA'S 2002 OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL WINNING HOCKEY TEAM AT SALT LAKE, AND AGAIN AT TURIN IN 2006, WILL BE ADDED TO STEVE YZERMAN'S STAFF FOR THE 2010 GAMES IN VANCOUVER. THE ANNOUNCEMENTS WILL BE MADE AT A PRESS CONFERENCE IN OTTAWA TODAY.


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