CALGARY, AB - The Flames may have been the home team but it was the Oilers who were on fire, scoring three times in the opening six minutes of Saturday's Battle of Alberta matchup en route to a momentous 7-3 victory.
Not only did the Oilers sweep the season series against their provincial rival for the first time in franchise history, they pulled nine points ahead of the Flames in the Pacific Division standings.
"It went our way early," said Head Coach Todd McLellan. "We got out of the gate like we wanted to and then we were able to match. When they scored, we came right back and scored."
It took just 77 seconds for the Oilers to draw first blood as Anton Slepyshev scorched a wrist shot past Chad Johnson for his third goal of the season. Drake Caggiula won the offensive zone faceoff and Slepyshev corralled the puck before beating the goaltender with a quick shot on the blocker side.
Mark Letestu made it 2-0 Edmonton at the 5:22 mark of the opening frame, hitting double-digit goals with his 10th of the season. Zack Kassian made a perfect pass coming out of the corner to find Letestu cutting to the net and the centreman buried his one-timer past Johnson. Letestu is now just four goals away from tying his career high of 14.
Just 36 seconds after their second goal, the Oilers struck again to chase Johnson out of the game as Brian Elliott came on in relief. Jordan Eberle did the deed for his 10th of the season and second in three games, taking a pass from Benoit Pouliot, bursting down the right side, faking a slap shot and sniping a wrister past the goalie's glove.
"The biggest thing was we started well," said Eberle. "We capitalized on our chances early and got them behind the eight-ball… We just kind of rolled from there."
Looking to spark the Flames, Deryk Engelland engaged Milan Lucic and the two dropped the gloves just past the midway mark in the period. Engelland landed more punches off the start, but Lucic rallied caught his opponent a few times late before executing the take-down. It was Lucic's second fight in as many nights.
The Oilers picked up right where they left off when the puck dropped to start the second period, scoring three more times during the middle frame.
Connor McDavid scored his 16th goal and 56th point of the season 3:57 into the frame, darting between two Flames defenders and picking the top corner on Elliott. Eberle scored his second of the night and 11th of the season at the 12:24 mark, as Matt Benning fed a perfect pass to the top of the crease for the simple tap-in.
The Flames finally solved Laurent Brossoit - making his season debut - on the power play at the 15:55 mark as Matthew Tkachuk found the back of the net through traffic.
Just as the home side had a sniff of hope, the Oilers responded almost immediately with a PPG of their own, as Oscar Klefbom's point-shot blast made it 6-1 just 58 seconds later. The blueliner one-timed a feed from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for his eighth of the season, which is the most among Edmonton's defenders.
Two of the period's goal scorers, McDavid and Tkachuk, got involved in the extra-curricular activities during the final minute, with Edmonton's captain getting a cross-checking minor and Calgary's rookie heading off for roughing.
Sean Monahan provided the Flames with their second goal just 26 seconds into the third, stealing a pass at the Oilers blueline and picking the top corner in alone on Brossoit.
Lance Bouma cut the Oilers lead to 6-3 with just over four minutes remaining in the game, but that was all the offence the home side could muster as their comeback came up well short.
Nugent-Hopkins scored an empty-netter to ice the win, while Brossoit finished with 38 saves for his first NHL victory.
"It's a great feeling," said the goalie, who's looking to solidify his spot as a reliable second option between the pipes behind Cam Talbot. "I'm going to be patient. I'm not trying to win a starting spot this year. I know my role. I'm just going to work hard in practices and just be ready for opportunities like this to play."
"We're all really happy for him," added Coach McLellan. "I'm sure this will do wonders for his confidence as he moves forward."
The Oilers will take a 5-0-1 record in their last six games into a well-deserved three-day break before returning to action with a mini two-game road trip Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks and Thursday against the San Jose Sharks.
Edmonton, Anaheim and San Jose are currently jockeying for top spot in the division, so it's another important back-to-back for the Oil prior to the NHL All-Star break.