Oilers give fans a surprise

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers didn't do well in drama this year. But you gotta admit it. Boy, did they show a flair for comedy.

Like last night.

Now who went to Rexall Place last night expecting a 5-1 Edmonton win over the Calgary Flames with the Oilers playing because it was on the schedule and the Flames for first place in the division and home-ice advantage in their first-round playoff series?

"And you get a laugher," said coach Craig MacTavish. "It was one of those weird nights. That might have been the least physical game these two teams have ever played against each other.

"That was a tough one to explain tonight. You can't explain it. But it happens over and over again."

15 SKATERS

There may have been more people wearing Calgary Flames jerseys in the stands than ever before and fewer wearing Flames sweaters on the Calgary bench than ever before as Mike Keenan could only dress 15 skaters due to injuries and salary-cap issues.

Keenan could only throw three lines over the boards. Old time hockey. There was a time, kids, when each team had three lines, two defensive pairings and one goalie.

But this wasn't the time to go retro.

The Flames were playing for first place in the division and the Oilers were playing because the schedule said they had to play last night and again tonight in Calgary.

The Oilers didn't even bother with a morning skate. And they played this one as if they were worried about missing last call. It was over in less time than it takes to play a preseason game.

"I haven't played on a team with such a small lineup since Pee Wee," said Jarome Iginla.

"No, not even Pee Wee. We had four lines in Pee Wee. It was probably Atom. Yeah, it would be Atom. The St. Albert Cougars of Atom Triple A," he said.

"I haven't seen that ever," said MacTavish of the 15-man lineup which hasn't been seen in the NHL since January of 1986 with the St. Louis Blues in a game against the Los Angeles Kings.

"It wasn't ideal for them, that's for sure. With three lines, maybe you can get through it for a period."

The Oilers, who had only managed to win two of their previous nine games with a playoff position on the line, started Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers in goal for the first time since November and watched him stop all by one of 31 shots.

With the pressure off, the Oilers went out and played pond hockey to the point there was concern somebody might fall through the ice.

"Calgary obviously threw a no-hitter from the start," said MacTavish. "It was not a high-pressure game. It was not the most intense of games. We have enough skill on open ice to take advantage of that."

The Oilers dressed Steve SmackIntyre for only the second time in the last 20 games and he scored a goal.

It was MacIntryre's second goal in the 21 games he's played this year.

Maybe some fans won't see the humour in this. But by comparison, next year's $7-million dollar man Shawn Horcoff had scored two goals in his previous 23 games and one goal in his last 26 games at home before he scored to make it 3-0 in the third period.

Now he gets one. Slapstick stuff.

They'd already had taps played on the Oilers season - the first time the Oilers had missed the playoffs three times in a row since they missed four straight in the '90s and the fourth time they'd been eliminated in the final three games since 2001-02.

SUPPORT FOR MACT

In the cheap seats behind the press box, Calgary fans started the game cheering "Keep MacT! Keep MacT!"

Oiler fans chanted "Calgary Sucks! Calgary Sucks!"

Calgary fans responded with "Playoffs! Playoffs!"

Because of the result the Edmonton fans didn't change "Go Oilers Go" to "Golf Oilers Golf" at any point of proceedings. And for one of the few times this year, they didn't send the hometown zeros turned heroes too late at Rexall Place where they lost five more games than they won despite being the only team out of the playoffs to win 20 on the road.

Meanwhile the Oilers, who had given their fans so little entertainment this season, put on such a show that the fans who had set a record for the most times they booed them off the ice in the 30-year history of the franchise, gave them a standing ovation when the left the joint.

That's rich comedy.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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