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Flames Rally From Three Goal Deficit To Beat Oilers 5-4

Wow, Omark & Paajarvi are a lot of fun to watch! CBC just said shots are 6-1 for Edmonton so far, and half of those must have come on that last shift. HOPE indeed.
--Ben Johnston, in tonight's game thread.


Would you like to see hope personified? Take a weary fanbase with nothing left to root for but hope and the future. Take away all of their team's experienced forward talent and their prized first overall pick, put nine AHL players on the ice, and watch as they give one of their best efforts of the season against their biggest rival who just happen to be desperately clinging to playoff hope.


Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.
--Red, Shawshank Redemption

Would you like to know why hope is a dangerous thing?  Watch as that group of youngsters jumps out to a 4-1 lead, and then gives it all back to those hated rivals, losing in a shoot-out, and giving their opponents a chance to make the playoffs.

The first period saw the Oilers play their best hockey in nine games.  It started with a bunch of small plays that made me sit up and take notice.  The little plays that were missing over the last eight games showed up in the first period.  Jordan Eberle chased a puck hard up the wall and neatly stepped around a charging Steve Staios who crashed into the boards with a giant whiff.  Eberle dipsy-doodled, weaved, deked, and tried a wrap-around, but missed the wide-open net  that was gifted to him by Teemu Hartikainen's play on the boards.  And speaking of Hartikainen, Mark Lee, in a wonderful example of foreshadowing, called out Hartikainen as a "minor leaguer".   Being called out by Mark Lee is typically a positive and it paid off tonight.  Then there was Theo Peckham who laid a big hit on Lance Bouma, bringing a giant "Oooooooooooooooh" from the Rexall crowd.  It certainly seemed like the Oilers were clicking.

Linus Omark, Andrew Cogliano and Magnus Paajarvi set the tone for the rest of the game on their second shift, getting off three shots and holding the puck in the Flames' zone for thirty-five seconds.  The highlight of the shift was a close-up of Linus Omark's Michael Jordan impersonation while taking possession of the puck -- tongue hanging out of his mouth, head up, looking to make a pass to an oncoming teammate.  That line would score a goal later in the period after Jason Strudwick struggled to get the puck over to his partner Peckham, and then Peckham struggled to get the puck up the boards to Omark, leading him too far to the center of the ice and directly into the sights of the oncoming defender.  But Omark made a wonderful catch, followed by a slide step and a tape-to-tape pass to Cogliano in full stride.  Cogliano then hit a streaking Paajarvi and Paajan slid home his own rebound for the goal.  That no Flame could catch Paajarvi on the rush was not a surprise.  The period ended with a beautiful Jeff Petry poke check as Tim Jackman came into the zone one-on-one against him.  The Oilers looked like a real NHL team, and certainly owned the play.

The Oilers kept making the little plays in the second and owned the play once again.  Eberle threw a beautiful lob pass (my favorite outlet play in hockey) and allowed Hartikainen to get behind Cory Sarich after Sarich, as is his custom, bobbled the puck.  Hartikainen was stopped by the environmental terrorist, and shortly thereafter, Steve MacIntyre took the kind of stupid penalty he's been taking all year; Jarome Iginla made the Oilers pay with a seeing-eye point shot that tied the game at one.

Hartikainen broke the tie less than a minute later with his first career goal and second career point.  Hartikainen's goal was a thing of beauty.  I've seen him make that play before for KalPa, and he discovered tonight that he's able to do the same thing in the NHL.  It started as Hartikainen won a puck battle in the corner, beating both Matt Stajan and Sarich for the puck.  He then threw it up the wall to Eberle, and Stajan chased the puck to Eberle who promptly recognized the mismatch of Hartikainen one-on-one with Sarich and returned the puck to the corner.  Hartikainen pulled what will soon be known as a Harski: he walked off of the wall on his backhand, allowed Sarich to attempt the hit to no avail, bounced off the lame duck defender, spun around to get the puck on his forehand, allowed Matt Stajan to hitch a ride on the way to the net, and then beat Kiprusoff short side.  The kid is a keeper.

The Oilers nearly extended the lead to two shortly after Hartikainen's goal but Tom Gilbert hit the crossbar after he broke into the slot alone against Miikka KiprusoffDevan Dubnyk then made stops on two Flames' scoring chances, both of which came on busted own-zone coverage by the Oilers' defense.  Hartikainen, not satisfied with embarrassing Sarich on his goal, then came in hard on the forecheck and buried Sarich in the corner, cementing his place in the message board starting lineup for next season.  It seemed like a late penalty to Jeff Petry for dropping back into the pocket, closing his hand on the puck, and throwing a bullet to the button hook would give the Flames the chance they needed to tie the game up, but rather than collapse the Oilers got a short-handed goal from Colin Fraser on a 2-on-1, Fraser's first goal since sometime in November.  The Oilers went into the third period with a 3-1 lead, and it didn't seem tenuous at all - with the exception of Steve MacIntyre and a couple of defensemen, the Oilers had been the better team and it wasn't close.

But it wasn't to be.  On a team missing so many players, it is impossible to win a game without playing for sixty minutes, and the Oilers put out just forty against the Flames.  In hockey parlance, the Oilers puckered in the third period. But before they did, they extended the lead to three after Liam Reddox created a turnover with a fantastic forecheck on the always-dirty Robyn Regher, which led directly to a Ryan Jones goal. After that, whether it was Calgary's desperation and willingness to throw everything on net or Edmonton's determination to play in their own zone and hope that clearing the puck would be enough, Calgary buried the Oilers. The Flames reeled off three straight goals and spent extended periods in the Oilers' zone. There was an occasional Oilers' rush or chance here and there, but the Oilers of the first two periods were nowhere to be found and the defense had a breakdown on nearly every shift.

Teemu Hartikainen was whistled for a ridiculously soft interference penalty on Olli Jokinen as the referees decided to make themselves part of the festivities. Iginla promptly cashed in on the power play after Backlund missed a wide open net, and from that point on, it was all Calgary. Jim Vandermeer coughed up the puck in the slot and should've been given the primary assist on the Curtis Glencross goal, but the official scorers somehow gave it to Iginla - Vandermeer's much-ballyhooed veteran presence did nothing to help him make a simple play on the puck.  The tying goal came, as if there was any doubt, from an ex-Oiler. This time it was Steve Staios (yes, that guy) who tied the game on what can only be described as ridiculousness. The Oilers were chasing the puck around the zone, the defense had problems communicating, and the puck came to Staios as a gift in the left circle.  He beat Dubnyk, who had little chance, just like the offering from former Oiler Curtis Glencross.  And the goal from Edmonoton native Jarome Iginla too.

Overtime was exciting in that play was up-and-down, but the Oilers couldn't generate a shot on goal and Calgary generated only one.  The game was decided by a miserable shootout, one in which Tom Renney failed to send out his best shoot-out man in Linus Omark.

The Oilers could've put the nail in the coffin that is Flames' season, but instead the third period collapse leaves the Flames and their fans with hope, hope that everything will break right for them and hope that the Flames will squeak into the playoffs, fending off the impending rebuild for one more year.

Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.
--Red, Shawshank Redemption