SUN Hockey Pool

Deja vu all over again for Oilers

Edmonton's Tom Gilbert can't get a shot past Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff during the Edmonton Oilers...

Edmonton's Tom Gilbert can't get a shot past Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff during the Edmonton Oilers game against the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Saturday. (Codie McLanchlan, Edmonton Sun)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

EDMONTON - Remember that first game of the season? The one the Edmonton Oilers won 4-0 over the Calgary Flames?

Well, for the longest time there, 74 games later, they looked like they were playing it again.

Then reality set in.

Up 3-0 and 4-1, the Oilers — with only 10 players remaining who were on the ice that opening night — lost 5-4 in a shootout to a desperate Calgary Flames team playing for their playoff lives.

Remember that first game when the Edmonton fans went nuts over just about every part of what happened in the stunner to open the season?

Eerily familiar

Well, for the longest time there — the first 52 minutes and nine seconds to be exact — they felt the same way about this one.

It would have been a bit more satisfying for the fans if the hometown team, had not waited until seven games remained in the season to see something like it again.

But still that wasn’t a bad way to end a season either, if you can ignore the seven games remaining. It was one whale of a hockey game.

“We knew they were a team pushing for the playoffs and that were going to sell the farm to try to do it,” said Ryan Jones, who scored his 17th of the season this night while Magnus Paajarvi potted his 12th.

“It would have been great,” he said of the prospect of the northern team knocking their rivals out of the playoffs.

“If you look at the game in its entirety, for the first 50 minutes we showed signs that we were going to be a great hockey team,” said Jones.

It was a game in which coach Tom Renney asked his team to play this one game like it was an actual playoff game.

And they did.

“They gave it everything they had,” said Renney of his patchwork lineup of players who started the season and most of them the month in Oklahoma City.

They were all over the Flames, created chance after chance and goaltender Devan Dubnyk made probably his best save of the season in this one.

Teemu Hartikainen became the ninth member of the team to score his first NHL goal, following Jordan Eberle, Paajarvi, Taylor Hall, Linus Omark, Jeff. Petry, Taylor Chorney, Ryan O’Marra and Theo Peckham to collect their prized puck.

It was a night where all the prized kids still skating — Eberle, Paajarvi, Omark and Petry — showed their stuff until the Oilers ran out of experience more than anything.

“We didn’t have the requisite intelligence that goes with it,” said Renney of the effort.

On a night when the Worlds Longest Hockey Game guys were honoured and announced they’d reached their goal of $1 million raised for cancer, there were questions about what the big ‘C’ on the Flames sweaters represented this night. It certainly didn’t look like it stood for character until Edmonton-area product Jarome Iglinla scored two and ex-Oilers Steve Staiois and Curtis Glencross added the others to bring the Flames back.

“We knew we didn’t have anything left to save it for. We knew going out for the third period that our season was on the line,” said Staios.

“That was pretty wild. It felt as good as any we’ve won all year,” said Iginla.

“They played hard, aggressive hockey. Like they had nothing to lose. We played like we were trying not to lose for the first two periods.

“It was our playoff loves on the line (Saturday) night. In the third period, once we were down, we just played. That’s how we’d been playing for the last three months. Hopefully, that’s a reminder that that’s the way we’ve got to play now.”

It was also a night, with two more dumb penalties including one which produced a power-play goal, Iginla’s 35th of the season, which may be remembered as Steve Smackintyre’s expiry date: March 26, 2011.

“We don’t need him in the penalty box, especially by himself,” said Renney.

In the end it goes down as the Oilers ninth consecutive loss mopping up a miserable season.

Then, finally and mercifully, the fifth straight out-of-the-playoff-season and the second-straight 30th-place finish will be over.

We count the days. But for 52 minutes last night, there were reason to count the months until the Edmonton Oilers turn into a hockey team again.

Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos