Sunday, January 22, 2012

Game 47: Calgary 6 Edmonton 2

You would have thought after the unexpected return of Taylor Hall from a grisly injury earlier in the week, the Edmonton Oilers would have been raring to go against their provincial rivals on Saturday night. Unfortunately, the undermanned Oilers continued to underwhelm in being trashed 6-2 by the Calgary Flames on home ice. Lee Stempniak led the charge for the surging Flames with his second career hat-trick and Blake Comeau chipped in with a three point night. Calgary is now 4-0 against Edmonton on the season and currently sit two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Flames would open the scoring just under seven minutes in, when Mikael Backlund scored just his fourth goal on the campaign but second against Edmonton. With a Calgary power play just ending, Mark Giordano sent a beautiful slap pass to a wide open Backlund, who deposited the puck into a wide open net and gave the visitors a 1-0 lead. Less then four minutes later, they would increase their lead by two on a goal that starter Nikoali Khabibulin would love to have back.

Blake Comeau picked up a loose puck, that Eric Belanger turned over at the Calgary blueline, and carried it up ice on an odd man rush but with all his options covered, the former Islander buried his head and fired a shot from the sideboards. Harmless enough but the puck somehow found its way past Khabibulin and into the back of the Edmonton net. Just like that it was 2-0 and all signs were pointing to another long night for the Oilers.

With just over a minute left in the period, Stempniak would score his first of the night. The former St.Louis Blue, took a nice drop pass from Jay Bouwmeester and skated in, untouched, and snapped a quick shot past the veteran netminder. The shot clock read 9-7 Flames but the scoreboard was all that mattered and that had Calgary up by three after twenty.

In what was a surprisingly uneventful middles frame, Calgary would extend their lead late in the period when Stempniak would fire another quick shot that would elude Khabibulin. That made it 4-0 and would basically end the night for the Oilers starter, who would be replaced in the third period by Devan Dubnyk.

Regardless of their goaltender's performance, it was curious how little energy Edmonton brought to the table in the opening forty. As mentioned previously, the return of Hall should have been a rallying point for this club. Instead, it appeared as though their star winger was one of the few who seemed interested in doing what was necessary, to try and get the job done.

Edmonton would get on the board early in the third, when Andy Sutton took a feed from Jordan Eberle and ripped a shot past Mikka Kiprusoff  to bring Edmonton within three. However, two and half minutes later Calgary would restore their four goal cushion when Bouwmeester notched his third of the season with Edmonton down a man. The Flames defenceman deflected a Jarome Iginla shot which beat Dubnyk but hit the post. Unfortunately for the Oiler netminder, the puck came off the post and ricocheted off Devan and into the Edmonton goal.

Ryan Smyth would make it 5-2, when he deflected a Jeff Petry shot past Kiprusoff for his sixteenth goal of the year and the Oilers appeared to still have life but with less then four minutes to play, this one was all but over. With well over two minutes to play, Edmonton decided to pull their goaltender in hopes of cutting the lead down to two but all it did was allow Stempniak to secure his hat-trick goal.

After the morning skate Taylor Hall informed the media that he would be playing in last night's game. Most felt the earliest he would return to the lineup would be Monday against San Jose. While others, myself included, thought the youngster should have been kept out of the lineup until after the All-Star game. In Taylor's mind, it was a very easy decision. If he didn't suit up, he would be "cheating his teammates". Unfortunately, far too few of his teammates seem to care as much about how this team does, as he does.

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