Maybe it was hearing how great the youthful Edmonton Oilers were that finally got to the Calgary Flames. Or maybe it was hearing those "Let's go Oilers" cheers echoing through the Scotiabank Saddledome; something that's just not supposed to happen in the House that Lanny Built.
Whatever the motivation, the Flames hosted their northern adversaries in the first Battle of Alberta this NHL season and were far from hospitable. The home team jumped to a 2-0 lead en route to a 4-3 final Saturday and played their best, most complete game so far.
It was certainly due. Through their first three games, the best Calgary could manage was a single point from a shootout loss against the Vancouver Canucks. The Oilers, meanwhile, were living up to their hype after scoring a dramatic shootout win over the Canucks then following that with an even more stirring overtime victory against the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
If either Calgary or Edmonton was going to manhandle the other, the smart money was on the surging Oilers to take it to the struggling Flames, especially with so many Oiler fans in the 'Dome chanting and wearing their colours. But that's not how things played out.
Centre Mikael Backlund and defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, on the power play, scored on shots that barely trickled past Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk. That brought the Flames' fans to life. Then it was Calgary's Curtis Glencross who helped inspire the Oilers. He took a goaltender interference penalty late in the first period that lead to Edmonton defenceman Justin Schultz beating goalie Miikka Kiprusoff with the man advantage.
As a way of getting back in coach Bob Hartley's good graces, Glencross scored early in the second period to restore Calgary's two-goal lead.
Jordan Eberle, on the power play, pulled the Oilers within a goal, 3-2, but then Lee Stempniak tipped in a Bouwmeester feed to put Calgary ahead again by two. (Sam Gagner scored for Edmonton with less than a second remaining in the game.)
Overall, this was how it was for the Flames – they dictated, they answered back when Edmonton threatened. It wasn't flashy or as much fun as watching Oilers' rookie Nail Yakupov do his goal-scoring rink slide, but it was effective.
And there was more encouragement for the Flames.
Newcomers Roman Cervenka and Jiri Hudler made their Flames' debut. Both players were prized off-season acquisitions and were penciled in for key roles. But Cervenka was bothered by a blood clot in his leg during training camp, put on blood thinners then sent to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix to be examined by experts.
Hurdler, the former Detroit Red Wing, was in Calgary but flew to the Czech Republic when told his dad was ailing. The father died before the son could see him. It was an emotional blow for Hudler, who was anxious to find relief playing hockey.
Cleared to play against the Oilers, Cervenka and Hudler skated on a line with Matt Stajan. Hudler earned his first point as a Flame by assisting on Stempniak's goal.
The Flames now get to stage a mini-training camp, since they don't play again until Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche. The Oilers host Colorado on Monday.