And being able to extinguish Flames is a definite bonus. The Czech sniper has a successful history against Calgary and that continued Tuesday night during the latest edition of the Battle of Alberta, scoring both goals to lead the Oilers to a 2-1 victory over the Flames in front of a full house at Rexall Place.
Sykora, who has 13 goals and 22 points in 20 career games against Calgary, is glad he has been able to make such a difference so far against the Oilers’ provincial and divisional rivals.
“Getting a couple points always feels good against that team,” said Sykora, who now has five points in three games this season against the Flames. “They were coming at us and on a six-game winning streak. It feels very good to break it and to extend our streak to four games.
“I hadn’t scored in six games, so I felt I was kind of due to get one in and I was glad it was in this game.”
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish is impressed with Sykora’s touch around the net.
“He has put up some pretty good numbers against the Flames,” said MacTavish. “He’s opportunistic to say the least. When he gets an opportunity he is going to put it in the back of the net.”
The two teams were tied 1-1 entering the third period when the Oilers finally broke the deadlock with just over six minutes remaining.
Flames starter Miikka Kiprusoff allowed a big rebound on an Ales Hemsky shot and Sykora was there to deposit his second of the game and 11th of the season.
Calgary had a glorious chance to tie the game in the final minute and a half as Steve Staios took a delay of game penalty. But the Oilers penalty killers proved up to the task and preserved the win.
The Oilers are on a four-game winning streak, improving to 12-8-1 on the season, and 9-2 at home. The Flames had a six-game winning streak snapped and are now 9-8-2 on the season.
“We played pretty good for the first 10 minutes and got the lead like we wanted, but then we couldn’t finish it off,” said Flames forward Kristian Huselius. “We lost our energy a little bit, especially in the third.”
Calgary started the scoring as they caught an early break on an Oiler defensive breakdown, leading to a 1-0 Flames lead. Oilers starter Dwayne Roloson looked about to smother an innocent shot when defenceman Daniel Tjarnqvist dug the puck away from his goalie’s grasp only to lose it at the side of the net. Chuck Kobasew quickly picked it up and sent a pass to Huselius, who deposited his seventh of the season into a wide open net.
But the Oilers were able to erase that mistake on the power play with just 31 seconds remaining in the first. Sykora blasted a slapshot from the top of the circle past Kiprusoff just one second after Calgary had managed to kill the first portion of a two-man advantage.
The game remained knotted through a scoreless second period. The Flames had the best opportunity on the power play with just over two minutes left but Roloson kept it even when he dove forward out of his cage to make a point-blank glove save on Calgary captain Jarome Iginla.
“I was just trying to stay with him the best I could,” said Roloson. “I think it was still rolling when he shot it so he wasn’t able to get a lot on it and luckily it ended up in my glove.”
MacTavish felt his team was lucky to escape from the second period with a draw.
“We’re not going to be putting a frame around our second period,” he said. “We got away with some mistakes there. Something we haven’t always been able to do the last little while is to survive those little stretches. You have to rely on some outstanding goaltending which we have been getting from Rollie.”
Roloson made 23 saves in picking up his 11th win.
Notes: The match was the third Battle of Alberta this season. … The Oilers won the first meeting 3-1 in their home opener at Rexall Place, also the season opening game for both teams. Two nights later, the Flames won their home opener against the Oilers, 2-1… Oilers defenceman Staios signed a four year contract extension with the club on Tuesday that will run through the 2010-11 season. The 33-year-old defenceman signed as a free agent with Edmonton in July of 2001.