CALGARY – The Calgary Flames finally got off to a good start thanks to some early physical force.
Three fights in the first six minutes got the emotions going and Owen Nolan scored one of two goals later in the period as the Flames went on to a 4-1 win Saturday night over the Edmonton Oilers.
“It got everybody into it and it shows the type of emotion our team can play with,” said Nolan, who opened the scoring with 3:46 left in the first period, giving Calgary its first goal in an opening period in seven games. “There’s no limitations if we play that way.”
Dion Phaneuf’s shot from the blue-line changed directions twice – caroming off an Oiler in front of the net then off Nolan around the midsection, and it just trickled over the goal line.
Phaneuf and Jarome Iginla, into an empty net, also scored for Calgary (28-20-8). Kristian Huselius and Alex Tanguay each had a pair of assists.
Robert Nilsson scored for Edmonton (25-27-5).
After the Flames were humiliated 5-0 Monday night in Edmonton by the injury-riddled Oilers, which included a third period melee instigated by Calgary enforcer Eric Godard, there was much anticipation that Saturday night would be a physical contest.
The start of the game lived up to that billing with two of Monday night’s combatants Phaneuf and Edmonton captain Ethan Moreau dropping the gloves for a rematch just 75 seconds into the game.
Two more fights followed shortly after that including an unlikely yet spirited scrap between Matthew Lombardi of Calgary and Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid. It was Lombardi’s first career NHL fight in four seasons.
“It shows how our tight our team is,” said Nolan. “There’s a big scrum and our smallest guys are getting in there, whether or not they’re outweighed or outmatched, they’re giving it their all.”
After Phaneuf’s power-play goal at 4:41 of the second, Nolan notched his second of the night and 14th of the season ripping a long slapshot past Mathieu Garon at 12:44 giving Calgary a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes.
“We have a big team but we don’t always use that to our benefit,” Nolan said. “We can be physical and play that way the whole game. We did it tonight and that’s why we limited their shots, they didn’t want to go in the corners.”
The Oilers were limited to six shots in the first 40 minutes, before finishing with 15.
“You don’t want to stare at the shot clock too much because it can get demoralizing, especially when it was as lopsided as it was tonight,” said Moreau. “We didn’t provide much of an opponent tonight.”
It was an important win for the Flames as they battle for a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference. The Flames opened the night tied for seventh place in the Western Conference with the Nashville Predators. The Flames begin a five-game road trip Tuesday night in San Jose.
“We’ve let it slip a little bit lately but there’s under 60 days left until the playoffs now, so this was a really big game for us to get it going again,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
Nilsson’s goal snapping Miikka Kiprusoff’s shutout bid came on a breakaway with 3:55 left in the third period. Sent in along by Sam Gagner, he made a deke to his forehand to tuck in his seventh goal of the season.
“I was happy with the way we answered the bell physically, but from a skilled perspective we failed early in the game,” said Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish. “We were looking most of the game for something good to happen to our hockey club and we were looking a long time.
“Finally we get a break in the third and the momentum changes in the game. But at that point it was too little too late.”
Kiprusoff improves to 28-17-8, while Garon, who finished with 26 saves, saw his record fall to 17-13-1.
Notes: It was Nolan’s fourth multi-goal game of the season. He has scored once in a game five times… Kiprusoff has gone 59 starts without a shutout dating back to a 1-0 win win over Minnesota on March 27, 2007. On home ice, Kiprusoff has gone 50 starts without a shutout. His last one at the Pengrowth Saddledome coming Jan. 9, 2007, a 3-0 win over Minnesota… Smid’s fight was third of his career, the previous two coming against Mark Rycroft and David Backes… The goal scoring struggles continues for Huselius, who has scored just once in the last 13 games after notching six goals in the five games prior to that stretch.