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Flames clobber Oilers in final Battle of Alberta showcase at Rexall

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

-- First one? Nope.

Last one? Yep.

The Calgary Flames didn’t get the decision in their first ever game at Rexall Place, but they made sure to leave their last with a 5-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

"We played a pretty strong game. We weathered the storm in the first 10 minutes of the game," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "The Oilers came on strong, Joni Ortio gave us a few big saves and then we scored that first goal and it seemed that we kind of took control of the game. Definitely very proud, big team effort."

Mikael Backlund had two goals, including a shorthanded marker, Johnny Gaudreau had a pair of goals, and Joe Colborne scored for the Flames in the final installment of the Battle of Alberta at Rexall. The Oilers move to the more modern confines of the 18,641-seat, $600-million Rogers Place this fall.

Calgary’s first-ever skate at Rexall, then Northlands Coliseum, came in a 5-3 loss on Oct. 22, 1980.

"We all know about this rivalry and I’ve said it many times, those two teams are getting pretty loaded with young talent and obviously the rivalry is going to heat up in the next couple of years," Hartley said. "Until we are playoff teams it’s a rivalry but I think that we focus on our jobs and the Oilers focus on their and try to get our kids better."

Backlund worked quickly to build a better outcome in their finale.

He put his 16th of the season behind Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot just 3:51 into the game, taking a chip from Josh Jooris before slipping a backhand by the Oilers goaltender while shorthanded that staked the visitors to a 1-0 lead.

The goal came on the Flames’ second shot, and a minute after Ortio made a glove save off Anton Lander from 28 feet out.

"I stepped up on the blueline there and pressured him, turned the puck over," Backlund explained. "Then [Jooris] tried it a couple of times and just stayed with it and got it through to me and I was just trying to get it on net and was happy to see it go in."

Colborne atoned for a bump on Talbot that wiped out a late first-period goal by Dougie Hamilton with one of his own 4:47 into the second. Backlund hit Colborne driving to the net with a pass he redirected to double Calgary’s lead to two.

It provided some breathing room for Ortio, who was quick to post up on a sharp-angle shot from Connor McDavid 4:55 into the period and throw a blocker on a shot from Leon Draisaitl at 10:49. Ortio got some help from the post on McDavid’s attempt at 15:46, and teamed up with Mark Giordano to thwart Patrick Maroon’s 4-on-2 attempt with 3:12 left in the stanza.

"I felt really good and I think after that McDavid save I felt even better," said Ortio, who picked up his second NHL shutout in his first Battle of Alberta. "If that goes in it’s not such a great start for us.

"I felt really good but I think our third period was one of the best we’ve ever played in as while…maybe all year. When we had our chances to put them away we did. It was an all around great effort."

Gaudreau bumped up the lead with a quick pair in the third.

He pushed the score to 3-0 at 3:11, squeezing his second attempt and fifth of the sequence in a crease scramble over the goal line, and followed it up with a power play marker at 7:21 on a give-and-go with Colborne through the slot that ended by sliding a backhand deke by Talbot.

His second of the game gave him 30 goals on the season.

"I think it’s a really cool accomplishment. Never did I think I was going to score 30 goals in the NHL," Gaudreau smiled. "It’s a really cool milestone and I’m really fortunately that I had a lot of really great plays from a lot of great players throughout the season helped me."

Backlund finished the scoring for Calgary with his second tally of the game. After picking up an errant pass from Patrick Maroon, Backlund broke through the middle all alone and beat Talbot on his forehand.

"I was just trying to read what they were going to do and I saw he was going to pass there so I was just trying to get the puck," said Backlund. "I tried to take off and get rid of those guys. I was just trying to do something and it worked out well."

Calgary will open a two-game homestand, their last remaining games on home ice this season, against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

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