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Flames edge Oilers on Hudler's OT goal

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Calgary Flames center Jiri Hudler was battling a case of the flu and was questionable for the game against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

Hudler did not make the trip to Edmonton with the team, instead flying in on his own a few hours before the game. He went on to score at 3:14 of overtime to lift the Flames to a 2-1 win at Rexall Place.

"I didn't travel with the team [Friday] night because I felt a little sick and they didn't want me on the plane because it's going around, so we didn't want to get many guys exposed," Hudler said. "I got up [Saturday] morning and I talked to the trainers and we booked a flight after lunch."

Hudler found a bouncing puck at the side of the net and beat Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk to give the Flames the win. Calgary came within 10.1 seconds of winning in regulation, but Taylor Hall scored to deny goaltender Reto Berra his first NHL shutout.

Berra made 30 saves for the Flames (11-14-4), who moved three points up on the Oilers at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Dubnyk made 25 saves for the Oilers (10-19-2).

"I was very, very impressed with our team," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "We battled for 60-plus minutes. Even when they got the tying goal, I could feel the disappointment on the bench, but I told them, 'We played so good, just keep going.'

"Jiri deserves lots of credit. He was sick, he left the game [Friday] night and went home sick. He was sick all night and flew in [Saturday] afternoon and it was a gutsy effort. I'm very proud of our boys."

Lee Stempniak scored the opening goal of the game at 16:00 of the first period.

It appeared as the goal would stand up as the winner before Hall scored late, getting the puck alone at the side of the net following a scramble in front.

"I'm really happy that we got the win," Berra said. "It was really close and right after the [tying] goal you're frustrated, especially as the goalie. But you have no time to think about that or to be frustrated, the next shot is the most important. I'm happy because I think I did well. They had two or three good chances in OT. I felt I was good on the puck and square and it was a good feeling for the whole team that we won this one."

Berra has split the goaltending duties with Karri Ramo this season. He went Saturday with 11 games of NHL experience.

"He was more under control," Hartley said. "It's pretty cold here, so there was no place to swim. He was on his skates, he was solid, he saw every puck. He used his size. He has to trust his size. He has quite a gift, he's a big-sized goalie and he put on quite a performance."

Playing the second of back-to-back games, the Flames took the lead with a play that started in their own end. Matt Stajan outbattled David Perron just inside the blue line, then beat Andrew Ference to the puck and tipped it to Stempniak, allowing him to go in unmolested on Dubnyk.

"We didn't want to open up against all that offensive talent that they have," Hartley said. "We just wanted to make sure that we played good in our zone and hopefully, some chances would come. Stempniak gave us a big goal in the first and I felt we came very close to playing a perfect game."

The Oilers had a couple of chances to tie the game late in the first period on the power play. Jordan Eberle fired a shot off the crossbar before Perron hit the post with six seconds left.

In the second period, Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry was forced to leave the contest after being sandwiched along the boards by Flames forwards Sven Baertschi and David Jones. Petry slammed his head into the glass on the play. He left the game with a head injury and did not return.

"Losing him, that is a loss," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "I know we just had him out of the lineup, but I thought he was playing fine and was off to a good start in the game. That didn't look good on the replay. I haven't had a chance to check up on him yet, but I am not expecting great news."

Neither team generated many chances in the period, although the Oilers came close in the last minute.

Ales Hemsky tipped a Ference point shot that Berra was able to smother. Perron managed to get a shot off as time was winding down following a faceoff, forcing Berra to make another good save.

In the third, the Flames managed to keep things tight defensively until Hall found himself alone after the Oilers pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker.

"It was not the best effort from us," Hall said. "It was nice to score that goal late. It was a huge rush and a boost for the team to send it into overtime. They got a bounce in overtime and put it in. They played their system well and it seemed like they were just waiting for us to turn over pucks and unfortunately we kept doing that. We have to be better at managing the puck and not playing into their hands the whole night."

Edmonton continues its five-game homestand Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Flames host the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

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