EDMONTON – Three games in and the Edmonton Oilers have already been burned twice by the rival Calgary Flames.
Olli Jokinen scored the shootout winner Thursday as the Flames earned their second dramatic comeback victory in Edmonton this season with a 4-3 win.
With Edmonton holding a 3-2 lead, Calgary pulled goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and managed to score with just 1.5 seconds left on the clock when Jay Bouwmeester’s point shot was tipped in by Rene Bourque for his third point of the game.
In Edmonton’s home-opener last Saturday, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin mishandled a puck with under a minute left to give the Flames a 4-3 victory.
“You can’t lose two tougher games than that,” said Oilers captain Ethan Moreau. “We played very hard in both games and did a lot of good things. I guess it gives some adversity to deal with early in the season because those are two of the toughest losses you are going to see all year, I hope.”
Daymond Langkow and Nigel Dawes also scored in regulation for the Flames, who improved to 4-0, their best start since a similar four game run to start the 1993-94 season.
“That’s a huge game for us,” Dawes said. “Especially the way things ended up at the end there, scoring at the last second. We really battled hard right to the end. That’s two big wins for us here. You never know what can happen, so that’s whey you have to keep pushing.
“That’s what we did tonight after falling behind by two.”
Moreau, Lubomir Visnovsky and Ales Hemsky replied for the Oilers (1-1-1), who lost star defenceman Sheldon Souray to a concussion in the second period on a controversial hit.
Just 18 seconds into the second period, Souray was helped off the ice after going hard into the boards on a trip by Calgary captain Jarome Iginla.
Souray did not return to the game and the early diagnosis was a mild concussion.
For his part, Iginla said there was no intention to injure.
“I wasn’t going for the puck, I was just trying to hold him and ride him into the boards like they do 100 times,” he said. “I didn’t mean to do that at all. I felt bad that he went in, but I went in pretty hard too and was a little dazed. It was freaky play and I definitely didn’t mean to do that. He’s an honest player and I didn’t mean to hit him from behind.”
Moreau challenged Iginla to a fight in a clash between the captains a few minutes later.
Oilers head coach Pat Quinn wasn’t sure that was enough of a response to the incident.
“I don’t understand the players of today,” he said. “If that had happened in the old days he would have got hit over the head with a stick right after. It was a pretty dirty play in my opinion. He poked his feet out and then piled on top of him. Somehow they never deal with that crap and they won’t let the vigilante stuff happen to deal with it. It’s disappointing.”
Edmonton opened the scoring with three and a half minutes left in the first period. Gilbert Brule sprung Moreau with a long pass as he came out of the penalty box, and the Oilers captain buried the breakaway through Kiprusoff’s pads.
Edmonton made it 2-0 as Visnovsky eluded Craig Conroy at the point and skated in before beating Kiprusoff with a blast with just 13.8 seconds to play in the opening period.
Calgary outshot Edmonton 10-9 in the first, but Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin was strong in the early running.
Calgary had a tremendous opportunity to cut into Edmonton’s lead midway through the second with a two-man advantage for 1:32, but the Oilers did a great job on the kill, including a great pad save by Khabibulin on Nigel Dawes.
The Flames made it a one-goal game with just 29 seconds left in the second as Langkow sent a backhand towards the net that bounced off of Oiler Jason Strudwick and deflected into the net.
Calgary knotted the game 2-2 four minutes into the third as Dawes tipped a Staffan Kronwall shot past Khabibulin from the side of the net.
Edmonton regained the lead with six minutes left as Shawn Horcoff’s shot from the slot was stopped by Kiprusoff but came out in front to Hemsky, who had all the time in the world to pivot around the Calgary goalie and stuff it into the net for the brief 3-2 lead.
The Flames return home to face Dallas on Friday night. The Oilers conclude a season-opening four-game homestand on Saturday against Montreal.
Notes: Moreau returned to the Edmonton lineup after missing one game with an infected ankle. Another veteran was unable to suit up for the Oilers, however, as defenceman Steve Staios was absent after getting his bell rung in Edmonton’s shootout win against Dallas on Tuesday. Staios was replaced by Jason Strudwick. … Nigel Dawes and David Moss did not skate on Wednesday but were back for Thursday’s game. Defenceman Cory Sarich remained out with a foot injury. … All 18 of the skaters Calgary dressed in the match had already recorded at least one point in their first three games. … The Calgary power play came into the game with an incredible 71.4 efficiency rating after going 5-7 with the man advantage. However, the Flames were 0-4 on the power play on Thursday. … The Flames and Oilers will meet for the third time this month in Calgary on Oct. 24.