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Oilers 'relentless' in Battle of Alberta win against Flames

Are 7-1-2 in past 10, take over second place in tight Pacific Division

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

CALGARY -- The Edmonton Oilers put a whole new lens on the Battle of Alberta and the Pacific Division standings with their 8-3 victory against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday.

"We were relentless tonight," Oilers goalie Mike Smith said. "We were hard on pucks. We made it hard on them tonight and we got rewarded because of it."

The Oilers were 0-2-1 in the previous three games against Calgary this season, including a 4-3 shootout loss at Rogers Place on Jan. 29, and the frustration was building.

But Edmonton scored two goals in the first 65 seconds Saturday and four straight after Calgary made it a 4-3 game at 10:14 of the second period. The Oilers are 7-1-2 in their past 10 games. 

"We needed a win against these guys," Edmonton coach Dave Tippett said. "We thought we played real well last game and didn't get the win. Our guys played accordingly."

Video: EDM@CGY: Yamamoto scores in first minute of game

The Oilers are 8-1-2 since losing the first Battle of Alberta this season, 5-1 at home on Dec. 27. After that game they were not in a Stanley Cup Playoff position in the Western Conference.

But with the one point earned Jan. 29, a 4-2 home win against the St. Louis Blues two nights later and the victory Saturday, the Oilers (28-18-6) have 62 points and are second in the Pacific Division, two points behind the first-place Vancouver Canucks. Their sights are clearly set on returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

"There are a lot of good things we've done over the course of the last three weeks, (last) month and we want to continue that to be a playoff team," said Smith, who is 6-0-2 in his past eight games. "We changed a few things structurally and guys are really buying in.

"I think the depth of our team is showing. Guys are contributing that weren't earlier in the season. Guys are filling in for guys when they're hurt. We've had a good mixture of different things that have made our team stronger in the last little bit and we're gaining confidence as a team."

The Flames (27-20-6) are 7-3-1 in their past 11 games and fourth in the Pacific, one point behind the third-place Vegas Golden Knights and two behind Edmonton.

They were no match for the Oilers on Saturday in another emotional game that featured plenty of heavy contact, the usual animosity and a fight between, Smith and fellow Calgary goalie Cam Talbot with 24 seconds remaining in the second period.

Talbot played for the Oilers from 2015-19 and signed a one-year contract with the Flames as an unrestricted free agent July 1. Smith played for the Flames from 2017-19 and signed a one-year contract with the Oilers as an unrestricted free agent the same day.

"I'm there to stop pucks," Smith said. "But tonight was an instance where you just want to stick up for your teammates and be in the battle with them. Fortunately, we're on the right side of that win tonight."

Video: EDM@CGY: Lindholm nets fortuitous goal off Smith

Smith said it was a bonding kind of win for the Oilers.

"There was a good feeling in here after this game, I'll just put it that way," Smith said. "The energy was probably unlike we've seen this year from our group. That can only make our group stronger in here and better as a team. I think there's things you can get out of games. There's a lot we can take from this tonight. We stuck together. We got a big win against a good hockey team and kept moving up in the standings."

After the victory, the Oilers admitted they were not happy with Flames goalie David Rittich, who flipped his stick into the air after stopping Leon Draisaitl in the final shot of the shootout Jan. 29.

"It's just disrespectful," said Draisaitl, who had four assists Saturday to take over the NHL scoring lead with 83 points (29 goals, 54 assists) in 52 games. He's four points ahead of teammate Connor McDavid, who scored his 28th and 29th goals of the season Saturday. "We hit two posts (in that shootout) and he's celebrating like they just won the Stanley Cup. I get it, they're excited, and good for them, they won the game in the shootout but show some respect, I think. That's my opinion."

Smith, Rittich's teammate in Calgary the previous two seasons, said his former partner got too carried away.

"I'm not going to start a media circus here," Smith said. "I was fortunate enough to play with [Rittich], so I have a relationship with him. He's a fiery guy but sometimes it goes a little too far."

Rittich was pulled at 3:18 of the second period after allowing four goals. He had to come back in after Smith and Talbot each received a game misconduct for the fight and allowed two more goals. 

"I think sometimes what goes around comes around," Smith said of Rittich, who allowed six goals on 28 shots.

It was just another factor that set the Oilers on their mission Saturday. If that's a level they can sustain for the remainder of the regular season, they're going to be tough to handle in the Pacific Division.

"We stick together in here," Draisaitl said. "It was great. Guys that you don't see getting in the rough stuff a lot, they're stepping up for each other. It's huge. It shows a lot of character in our group."

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