EDMONTON - It was the home debut that Sheldon Souray had hoped for ever since signing on with the Edmonton Oilers this summer.
Playing in his first game at Rexall Place, Souray's bullet of a power-play goal in the second period stood up as the winner as the Oilers defeated the Calgary Flames 2-1 Wednesday in pre-season action. The Oilers won their third straight in exhibition play to improve to 5-1.
Souray, who had 64 points from the blue-line for Montreal last season, was also a troubling minus-28 and hopes to improve that part of his game immensely with the Oilers.
"I feel like I have a long way to go still as a player," he said. "There are parts of my game that I want to make sure, defensively as an example, that I am responsible. I want to be accountable killing penalties and out there at the ends of periods and the ends of games, protecting leads.
"Hopefully I can put the offence and defence together. I may not have as many points but I think I can play a bigger role."
Rookie Andrew Cogliano also scored for the Oilers, and leads the team in points in exhibition play with six.
"He looks like he played at this level last year," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "He's got a real nose for the net. He's looking good. He's a real threat. He's a little bit like Michael Peca where you can get that instantaneous offence from him, which is so valuable."
Adrian Aucoin responded for the Flames, who have struggled to 1-3-2 in the pre-season - a record Flames defenceman Rhett Warrener believes is definitely disappointing.
"It kind of speaks for itself," he said. "There are a lot of new guys and a new coach and we are breaking it all in. But one win to this point certainly isn't good enough."
New Calgary coach Mike Keenan doesn't feel you can measure anything by pre-season stats.
"If you look at the lineups and the number of rookies that have been inserted in many lineups you don't really know for sure what it looks like until the schedule starts."
The game was scoreless until the final minute of the first period. A shot got behind Calgary starter Curtis McElhinney and laid on the goal-line for about three seconds before Cogliano was able to fight his way through a crowd and nudge it in with 48 seconds left in the period. It was Cogliano's fourth of the pre-season.
Edmonton had a golden opportunity to add to their lead six minutes into the second as Ales Hemsky was awarded a penalty shot, but his attempt to hit the top corner sailed over the Flames net.
Calgary owned the play for large swaths of the second period with 14 shots on Edmonton netminder Dwayne Roloson, but the Oilers escaped the second with a 2-0 lead after Souray's late goal.
Souray showed why the Oilers were eager to acquire the free-agent defenceman as he sent a bullet off the shoulder of McElhinney and into the net with 28 seconds to go.
Calgary pulled back to within one just before the eight minute mark of the third with a power play marker of their own as Aucoin blasted a point shot past a screened Roloson.
Calgary had some good late chances to even the game up but Edmonton was able to hang on for the win.
The Flames return home to face Vancouver on Friday while the Oilers close out the pre-season on Saturday against the Canucks.
Notes: The Oilers reduced their training camp roster to 31 players with the assignment of nine players to the AHL's Springfield Falcons in the afternoon, most notably highly touted centre Rob Schremp. Also sent down were defencemen Sebastien Bisaillon, Danny Syvret and Bryan Young and forwards Troy Bodie, Fredrik Johansson, Ryan O'Marra, Liam Reddox and Viacheslav Trukhno. Four more players were shipped to the AHL after the game as goalie Devan Dubnyk and forwards Jonas Almtorp, Ben Simon and Tim Sestito were sent down. Calgary has only 27 players left vying for positions on the team... This was the second pre-season meeting between the two Alberta-based teams. Edmonton won the previous match 5-4 in overtime last Saturday as Cogliano scored the winner.