Flames hold off Oilers for 1st win of season
3-point night for Calgary's Lee Stempniak
In his career, Lee Stempniak has always been a streaky scorer. This year, so far, so good.
Stempniak scored his third goal of the season and added two assists Saturday night to lead the Calgary Flames to their first win of the season, a 4-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
"I've been trying to be more consistent," said Stempniak, who scored 14 goals last season, his first with the Flames. "Unfortunately, I've sort of been a streaky scorer in the past. I'm trying to take the same approach and be consistent and hopefully the scoring will become more consistent as we go along."
Stempniak had a career-high 28 goals three years ago, 14 of the goals coming in 18 games after he was acquired by the Phoenix Coyotes. The next year, he had 19.
"You take it while you can and today I got a great pass from (Jay) Bouwmeester and it was pretty easy to put that one in," Stempniak said.
His power-play goal at 14:57 of the second period, restoring a two-goal cushion for the Flames at 4-2, would turn out to be the winning goal as the Oilers got a goal from Sam Gagner with two seconds left in the game.
"We knew Calgary was going to bring their 'A' game today and they truly did play hard and strong through the game and didn't give us much but at the same time, we're not pleased with some of the execution," said Oilers coach Ralph Krueger.
Mikael Backlund and Curtis Glencross, with his third goal, also scored for Calgary (1-2-1), who lost back-to-back games at home last weekend to open the season.
Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle also scored for Edmonton (2-2-0), which was outshot 35-20.
On the decisive goal, Bouwmeester pinched in from the blue-line, made a slick move to fool Ladislav Smid, then zipped a hard pass across the top of the crease that was neatly deflected in by Stempniak.
"Bouwmeester was flying tonight," said new Flames coach Bob Hartley, celebrating his first win. "We saw the real Jay Bouwmeester, a guy that took charge, wanted the puck, made a great play on Lee Stempniaks' goal. He was a quarterback out there."
Often the object of fan disdain since signing a lucrative free agent contract with the Flames three years ago, Bouwmeester looked energized all night, constantly jumping up into the rush. After scoring 12, 15 and 15 goals his final three seasons with Florida, he's scored 12 goals combined in three seasons with the Flames.
"That's the kind of hockey that Jay Bouwmeeester can bring to us and he has the green light," Hartley said. "He has the speed to create offence and if he doesn't, he has the speed to come back. We're telling him that we want him to create a good second wave for us, to make sure he's always in the play, always active and that's hard to defend."
New Czech acquisitions Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka both played well for the Flames in their debut. Hudler got in on the scoring with an assist.
"With those two guys, it's puck control, hockey sense and vision. In the second period, there was that one shift that there were tic-tac-toes all over the ice and I thought the fans really appreciated this and we even had a few fans on the bench," said Hartley.
The Oilers entered the night not having led yet in a game and that trend continued as goals by Backlund and Bouwmeester gave Calgary a 2-0 first period lead.
The Oilers cut the gap to one when Schultz scored just five seconds into a power play.
However, Calgary restored its two-goal lead four minutes into the second when Jarome Iginla's centring pass was tapped in by Glencross.
"We got off to bad start in all three periods and that's something we can work on," said Schultz.
The Flames are off until Thursday night when they continue their three-game homestand against the Colorado Avalanche.
Before coming to Calgary, Colorado stops off in Edmonton as the Oilers next opponent on Monday night.
"I'm excited to see what we do when we get a lead," said Schultz. "Hopefully Monday, we can get off to a good start, get a lead and build on it from there."
There was a strong turnout of Oilers supporters at the Scotiabank Saddledome in the provincial rivals' first meeting of the season, and Edmonton faithful got the crowd fired up halfway through the first period by chanting "Let's go Oilers."
"The two best teams to beat, I think without question, are Vancouver and Edmonton," said Iginla. "I still have buddies up there I couldn't convert — after 15 years, I've given up trying to convert some of them — so it is nice to beat them, so they don't have any bragging rights."