If you sat a Hollywood script writer down and told him to write a feel-good, heartwarming yarn prior to Saturday night's Flames/Oilers tilt at the Scotiabank Saddledome, it's hard to imagine he could have penned anything as apropos.
Speilberg, Tarantino, Scorsese - they all would have been impressed.
Sure, to be fair, it was only pre-season. But in the long-running series that is the Battle of Alberta, it was still downright cinematic and fun for the fans in the stands.
Former Oilers Tobias Rieder and Milan Lucic scored second-period goals less than three-minutes apart in the second period and Rieder added another timely tally - the game-winner in the third - to propel the homeside to a 3-2 victory in their final pre-season tilt.
Rieder, of course, spent last season with the Oilers, snakebitten in the Alberta Capital going 67 games without a goal.
The 26-year-old came to Calgary on a PTO and has impressed the coaching staff, regularly earning praise from head coach Bill Peters for his play, including his ability to generate offensive opportunities this pre-season.
However, his goal-scoring drought was brought up often by the media, hanging over his head like a black cloud that wouldn't go away.
That was, until the 6:26 mark of the second stanza when linemates Mark Jankowski and Austin Czarnik made a quick 1-2-3 passing play that finished with Rieder, who snapped a wrist shot under the glove hand, far-side on Oilers netminder Mikko Koskinen.
Then came Lucic's turn to add to the picture-perfect narrative.
Coming to Calgary this summer in a trade that sent James Neal up to Edmonton (Neal didn't make the trip last night), Lucic was also lauded by the coaching staff for creating tons of chances in the pre-season, especially on the powerplay.
But he was still looking for his first goal in Flames' silks.
He got it at the 9:12 mark while Calgary was a man-up. Koskinen made the stop on a Rasmus Andersson point shot but the rebound fell to the feet of Lucic who was standing just outside the blue paint, pulling it on his backhand to his forehand and slipping it behind the Oilers 'tender to make it 2-0 and leading to the first 'Loooooooooooooooooooooch' chant to ring through the 'Dome.
The game, of course, featured a lot of players who had switched jerseys. Mike Smith, who spent two seasons with the Flames and signed in the off-season up the QEII, sat on the Oilers bench backing up Koskinen.
Cam Talbot, who spent four seasons with the Oilers before being dealt partway through last season to the Flyers, backed up Flames starter David Rittich.
Speaking of Rittich, he wasn't tested much in the first period, thanks in large part to great defensive plays and the Oilers inability to put any passes on the tape when players did manage to find a seam.
Travis Hamonic best displayed the Flames defensive savy when he broke up a two-on-one play, deflecting a pass from Leon Draisaitl that was meant for a wide-open Joakim Nygard.
The Flames led 9-3 in shots after 20 minutes of play.
Rittich made his biggest stop of the game to that point early in the second, kicking out his pad to deny what looked like a tap-in by Draisaitl after a great pass from Tomas Jurco.
Sam Bennett nearly opened the scoring not long after, toe dragging around Ethan Bear at full steam to get a nice wrist shot off that Koskinen was able to turn aside.
SPEAKING OF CHUCKY:
Last night was the first time in a game this pre-season for Matthew Tkachuk, who signed a new three-year deal with the club on Wednesday.
"I just have to treat it like it's right in the middle of the regular season," said Tkachuk after the morning skate, "and hit the ground running here. Don't ease into the game at all - just get right after it and play like I normally do. That's the best way I'll catch up."
He did just that.
His 3M Line - along with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik - started the game, and as expected there was a thunderous cheer with Tkachuk's name was announced.
He looked anything but rusty, handling the puck behind the net in his office often and setting up shop in the front of the net looking for tips. He finished the night with two shots and a more important 20:18 of ice time.
THEY SAID IT:
BILL PETERS ON BIG NIGHT FOR RIEDER AND LUCIC
"Ya, funny how it unfolded, right. With Tobi, the quality of his chances that he's been generating here throughout the pre-season have been high. And then again tonight it was a real good decision to shoot the puck and then he's going to the net, that's kind of how he plays so that was good to see. And then Looch is net front on a powerplay, so good execution there, real good faceoff win and then Brodes does a real good putting in the wheelhouse ... and he's where he needs to be."
RIEDER ON HIS BREAKOUT TALLIES
"It feels really good - too bad they don't count ... but it gets the confidence up and I think that's what I need right before the regular season."
RIEDER ON HIS TIME IN CALGARY SO FAR
"It's been exciting. Coming in on a PTO, just focusing on hockey, just focusing on what I can control. And I think it worked out really well."
RIEDER JOKING ON SECOND TALLY
"To be honest, I don't even know what happened. It just hit me and went in. But sometimes you have to get those type of goals ... (it) hit me on the stick. I was just trying to get out of the way so he could get a clean shot but it somehow got my stick and went in. But not complaining."
LUCIC ON A BIG NIGHT FOR THE EX-OILERS
"It would have been great if Talbs could have got in there. It's just one of those things that happened tonight.I think mainly, for both of us, it's a good feeling to find tha back of the net - to get that feeling before the regular season starts here. Gotta do what we can to carry itover and build off that feeling."
Here are the line combinations and D pairs to start the game:
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Milan Lucic - Sam Bennett - Andrew Mangiapane
Tobias Rieder - Mark Jankowski - Austin Czarnik
Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Andrew MacDonald - Rasmus Andersson
Lindholm - Monahan - Gaudreau
Czarnik - Backlund
Andersson - Brodie
Backlund left last night's game as a precautionary measure ... Neal wasn't the only notable absence for the visitors last night. Captain Connor McDavid and second-line centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also didn't dress int he tilt ... Earlier Saturday, the Flames released forward Devante Smith-Pelly from his PTO.
Finally - it's time for the season to begin!
After a pair of rookie games, a split-squad game with the Canucks and six more pre-season outings, the Flames begin the regular campaign with a trip to Denver Thursday to face the Avs (7 p.m., TV: Sportsnet West, Radio: SPORTSNET960 The Fan), the same team they met in the first round of last spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs. Colorado will have Mikko Rantanen back in their lineup after the RFA signed a six-year deal Saturday night with the club.
The Flames return home to the Scotiabank Saddledome for their home-opener on Saturday when they host young star Elias Pettersson the archrival Canucks (8 p.m., TV: HNIC, Radio: SPORTSNET960 The Fan). Click here for tickets