Jordan Eberle recorded a goal and two assists, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice as the Edmonton Oilers dealt a blow to the Calgary Flames' post-season hopes with a 3-1 win on Friday night at Rexall Place.
1:18 into the period, Taylor Hall went to retrieve a rimmed clearing attempt along the side boards. No. 4 was falling as he looked down at the puck; in doing so, Cory Sarich raced in and pounded the sophomore with a hit that knocked the Oilers' young superstar out, requiring attention from Head Athletic Therapist T.D. Forss.
Hall got up under his power and was escorted to the locker room to be evaluated. It was later announced that he would not return to the game.
Ryan Whitney picked up a double-minor for roughing on the play as he came to his teammate's defence, putting Calgary on the power-play. The Oilers didn't allow a single shot, however, keeping the game in a scoreless tie early.
With 15:00 on the clock, Theo Peckham got caught up ice, providing the visitors with a partial 2-on-1 opportunity. Mark Giordano collected a pass and nearly slid the puck through Devan Dubnyk's wickets, but the 'tender got just enough of it (with help from the post) to prevent the goal.
At 10:12, persistence paid off for the home side. Excellent work by Jordan Eberle helped spark an extended attack; No. 14 spun off Scott Hannan, worked his well to the middle just before dishing to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the slot. The rookie wasted no time, snapping a shot past Leland Irving's glove to put the Oilers up 1-0 on their sixth shot.
With 4:42 to play in the period, the orange and blue made it two. Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Teemu Hartikainen continued their dominance, making the aging Calgary D look silly with an equally as commanding sequence that resulted in another goal. Eberle, doing it all, stepped into the slot and launched a laser that made an obvious 'ping!' as he scored, bar-in, putting the Oilers up 2-0.
The Oilers went to the power-play at 17:47 when Giordano was assessed a holding minor. The home side maintained possession throughout and rifled a gallery on Iriving (many went wide, mind you), but nothing more was added to the scoreboard. As such, the period ended with the Oilers up 2-0; 10-8 in shots.
While Calgary had a strong start to the period, an Alex Tanguay tripping minor halted the Flames' attack and put the Oilers back on the advantage. Ryan Whitney blasted a one-timer near the power-play's end, but, while it pinballed in the crease and behind Iriving, the puck managed to stay out.
Near the seven-minute mark, Nugent-Hopkins located Eric Belanger behind the D, springing him on a breakaway. No. 20 made a deke, but took himself out of it by staying too far to one side, canceling the opportunity as Iriving made a semi-routine stop.
Moments later, Tanguay did something similar, breaking in alone on Dubnyk. He released a quick snapshot, but his attempt caught the crossbar and directed up and into the netting to stop play. After the whistle, the teams convened at centre ice as a spirited chirping match broke out, but nothing came of it.
On the Flames' 15th shot with 7:36 to play, they caught a lucky break. Giordano's long-range point shot redirected in off Ladislav Smid's stick near the bottom of the circle, giving Dubnyk no chance to stop the shot as it sailed past his glove-side shoulder.
The Oilers nearly regained the two-goal lead when Sam Gagner received a pass alone in the slot; Iriving challenged, racing to the bottom of the circle as he made an around-the-world glove save to preserve his club's one-goal disadvantage.
With 40 minutes in the books, the Oilers continued to lead while holding a slim 19-17 edge in shots.
Flames rookie Sven Baertschi picked up a roughing minor at 3:27, putting the Oilers back on the power-play. This one, sputtered, however, as miscalculated passes ruled the advantage, keeping the game in a 2-1 score.
Near the period's 10-minute mark, the Oilers broke up ice on a 2-on-1 with Eberle and Ryan Jones. The sophomore pulled a toe-drag, stepped into slot and wired a heavy wrister on goal, but Irving came up with a sensational glove save that wowed the crowd.
Moments later, the Oilers made good anyway. Nugent-Hopkins, standing at the doorstep, whacked home a Jones rebound to restore the club's two-goal lead at 9:25.
With 9:07 to play, Hemsky was drilled in the numbers while the Oilers were on the attack, but the rough hit didn't draw a call. Instead, he took matters into his own hands and engaged Blake Comeau near the benches. Both players received minors in the brief altercation, putting the teams in a 4-on-4 situation.
Head Coach Tom Renney elected to go with the kids during the 4-on-4 sequence (Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins) up front; and, while it didn't work as intended with an up ice push, it was a concoction worth seeing. Once they got back to the bench, Renney pulled them aside and educated them with hand motions and verbal encouragement.
Moments later, they were right back out there as the teams returned to 5-on-5 action. Growth.
With 4:03 to play, Anton Babchuk was charged with tripping. David Moss picked up a minor 19 seconds later, putting the Oilers on a 5-on-3 advantage. While Nugent-Hopkins came close to his hat trick and a 4-1 lead, the penalties expired without another mark on the scoreboard.
Calgary pulled Irving for an extra-attacker with 1:05 to play. The addition had little effect, as the Oilers cruised to a 3-1 win.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick