Oilers stamp out Flames

Oilers forward Ryan Smyth shares the net with Flames goaltender Leland Irving at Rexall Place in...

Oilers forward Ryan Smyth shares the net with Flames goaltender Leland Irving at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., March 16, 2012. (CODIE McLACHLAN/QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:03 AM ET

EDMONTON - That'll teach them to mess with Jordan Eberle's roommate.

After watching his buddy Taylor Hall helped off the ice with a concussion 1:18 into the first period Friday, the young Oilers winger responded by breaking Calgary's back.

Eberle got mad, got even and got three points Friday night to hand the Flames, who are struggling to get their heads above the eighth-place waterline, a crushing 3-1 defeat that might just wind up being the death of their season.

"Any time you get a chance to beat these guys it's awesome," said Eberle, adding this one was especially nice, given the way this game started. "Hallsy is the heart and soul of this hockey team, he's a guy who puts it on the line every night. Any time you see a buddy, especially my roommate, go down like that, you want to try and respond. I can't, obviously, be physical and fight, but I can respond by helping our team win and getting two points."

So he did. The three points Eberle earned, and the two points Calgary didn't, are vengeance enough.

"It was fun to come out in the first and take it right to them," said Eberle, who has 69 points in 67 games. "We answered the bell by winning the hockey game, got the two points and maybe pushed their chances of making the playoffs back."

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got his licks in, too, scoring two goals in the win.

A lot of young teams would have folded after watching one of their young leaders and best players knocked out 78 seconds after the opening faceoff, but the Oilers only tightened the chin straps and came harder.

"I think we did a good job of kind of rallying for him," said Nugent-Hopkins. "Sticking with it, not letting it affect us and doing it for Taylor out there. We knew it was going to be a battle and it was a lot of fun out there tonight."

For a game between a team that might not make the playoffs and one that definitely won't, the last showdown of the season between these two teams was the best of the year, featuring all kinds of passion, intensity and ill will.

The Flames pulled out the white glove and slapped Edmonton in the face with it before the puck even dropped. With their playoff lives hanging by a thread, and playing a hated rival in the Battle of Alberta, they had so little respect for the fired up Oilers they sat Miikka Kiprusoff and gave back-up Leland Irving his seventh career start.

Ouch.

The Oilers, on the other hand, had such little respect for Calgary's toughness they sat Darcy Hordichuk.

Double ouch.

And the fireworks started early when Hall lost his footing in the corner and got crushed by an oncoming Cory Sarich.

"I'm just going down to play the body and he falls," said Sarich. "Obviously I'm trying to hit him in the shoulder pads, but when the guy falls, there's nothing you can do."

Hall left the game and never returned. None of the Oilers thought it was a dirty hit, but they wanted to dig in for their buddy just the same.

"It's definitely tough to see a guy go down like that," said Nugent-Hopkins. "He kind of slipped and got direct contact to the head. It wasn't pretty to see but I think we did a good job of sticking with it and not letting it affect us.'

Eberle took over from there, shaking Scott Hannan with a brilliant spin move and sending a deft little backhand to Nugent-Hopkins, whose quick release made it 1-0 Edmonton at 10:11. He scored the second one himself, skating out of the corner and putting a wrister under the crossbar at 15:38.

After Calgary closed it to 2-1 in the second, Nugent-Hopkins put it away at 9:25, with Ryan Jones and Eberle assisting on the insurance marker.

After the Hall incident, and big hits on Ales Hemsky and Ryan Jones, Sarich spent the rest of the night ducking Theo Peckham.

"He's a guy we want on the ice," said the Flames defenceman, explaining why he backed down so many times.

"Scoreboard," grinned Peckham. "We won."

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ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca


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