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Intensity ramps up in Eastern Conference Final

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club.

- Travis Ewanyk and the Edmonton Oil Kings have put the Calgary Hitmen on notice:

"We're never going to let anyone take liberties out there. We never get pushed around and it's certainly not going to start now."

Ewanyk and teammate Mitch Moroz were instrumental in relaying that message Friday night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final. Late in the third period, trailing by a bunch and with little consideration given to the well being of his opponent, Pavlo Padakin sent Oil Kings defenceman Ashton Sautner violently into the end boards.

Charging back in response, the Oilers prospects launched an assault on the unsuspecting Hitmen. Sticks, gloves, torn sweaters and frayed tempers littered the ice, resulting in over 40 minutes in penalties and sweet vengeance for the home side.

"It was really nice to see," said Sautner, who, in the ultimate form of revenge, scored a power-play goal at 18:36. "Trav and Mitch, they're always good for that. They stick up for our guys when we need it. To see them go back and do that for me and for the team, it says a lot about them and the character in this dressing room.

"We showed them that not only can we score, and score in bunches, but we're going to battle and stick up for each together no matter what the situation is."

"There's no thought process that goes into it," added Ewanyk. "When you see a guy on your team get hit like that, we're not going to let it go. That's not the kind of team we are. You can't take a bad penalty, but when you're up by a couple and are in that situation, you have to send a message and even things up right then and there."

Amid it all and in a game that had been hurled off the rails, the Oil Kings remained disciplined. The Hitmen did not, which resulted in 14 power-play chances against and four goals scored late, spinning an otherwise close game into one of complete disarray.

Henrik Samuelsson, Martin Gernat (2), Curtis Lazar, Sautner and Trevor Cheek all tallied for the Oil Kings.

"We have to keep playing that way," said captain Griffin Reinhart. "It obviously works to our advantage when Calgary takes all the penalties. I thought the refs kept it under control and called it both ways. We were able to keep our sticks down and play more disciplined. That was the key to the game and it was good that we scored on the power-play late to bury them.

"We knew coming into this series that it was going to be a tough one and it was going to be physical, so it wasn't too surprising to see them play that way."

"It's easy to say what happened before doesn't matter now, but that game was most definitely a momentum-builder," added Ewanyk. "It was nice to get the power-play clicking in the third, too, after struggling with it earlier on. We know we haven't played our best in this series yet, so if we come and do that in Games 3 and 4, we know we put ourselves in a good spot."

Games 3 and 4 will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"It was huge to get that win," said Reinhart. "It's going to be a little better going down to Calgary with a split rather than being down 2-0. We're in a good spot and our entire focus is on going there and getting our home ice advantage back."

Given how the series has been played to this point, the results could hinge on goaltending. MVP Laurent Brossoit returned to form Friday after a so-so start in Game 1, making 23 saves and posting his fourth shutout of the playoffs.

Hitmen goaltender Chris Driedger was sensational in Game 1, stopping 33 shots in a 3-2 win in overtime. He was brilliant again in Game 2, but was chased after allowing a power-play goal by Curtis Lazar late in the third.

The 19-year-old prospect of the Ottawa Senators made 40 saves on 44 shots in the 6-0 defeat.

"It was nice to break him down a bit," said Ewanyk. "We know that heading to Calgary he's still one of the biggest challenges we're up against in this series. That said, we're feeling pretty good right now."

-- Ryan Dittrick, | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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