Eberle makes indelible debut in Oilers' win

Rookie Jordan Eberle made a memorable start to his NHL career, scoring his first goal in a 4-0 Oilers' victory over provincial rival Calgary Flames at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

Rexall Place, Edmonton

  1 2 3 T
Calgary 0 0 0 0
Edmonton 1 0 3 4

Top Performers

Jordan Eberle (EDM) — 1 goal, 1 assist

Ryan Whitney (EDM) — 2 assists

Nikolai Khabibulin (EDM) — 37 saves

The story

The Edmonton Oilers may struggle to win games this year, but the one thing they won't lack is excitement.

That much was evident after the young Oilers thrilled the sellout crowd at Rexall Place with a shutout victory over the depleted Calgary Flames.

Rookie Jordan Eberle began his NHL career in breathtaking fashion, scoring his first goal and adding an assist. Gilbert Brule,Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff also scored for Edmonton.

The night, however, belonged to Eberle.

Looking dangerous throughout the night, Eberle finally broke through in the third period. With Edmonton already leading 1-0, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin made a key save with his team short-handed before defenceman Jim Vandermeer sent a beautiful bank pass along the boards to a racing Eberle.

The 20-year-old then brought the crowd to its feet with a jaw-dropping, highlight reel goal at 1:24 into the third.

After dragging the puck back to elude the sprawling Ian White, Eberle beat Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff with a deke before roofing the backhand into the open net.

"It was one of my nicer goals for sure," Eberle said. "It was one of the more special ones I've had. You don't score your first NHL goal too many times."

Still buzzing from the excitement, Hemsky and Eberle scored 2:21 apart to finish off the reeling Flames. On the fourth goal, Eberle directed a shot toward the net that went off Horcoff and behind Kiprusoff. The power-play marker was originally credited to Eberle but was eventually awarded to Horcoff.

Khabibulin stopped everything the Flames threw at him, earning his 42nd career shutout.

Khabibulin started for the first time since going down with an back injury last November and subsequently being found guilty of impaired driving in Arizona in February.

"He was very steady and square to the puck," said Oilers coach Tom Renney. "He gave us a lot of confidence. He's been nothing but professional and a real solid teammate through this whole process. I don't expect that is going to change."

Calgary was missing several key players in the opener as forwards Daymond Langkow (neck), Matt Stajan (shoulder), David Moss (shoulder) and Ales Kotalik (knee) all skipped the game.

Speed kills

Prior to Thursday's contest, Renney wasn't shy about encouraging Taylor HallMagnus Paajarvi and Eberle to show their creative side. The rookies took the advice to heart, all three displayed speed and skill that caught the Flames flat-footed several times. Eberle was in a class by himself, but Hall, the top pick in June's entry draft, also showed electrifying skill in the second period. During one stretch, Hall used some nifty stick-handling to keep Calgary pinned in its own end.

Lights out MacIntrye

Oilers rugged winger Steve MacIntyre added further insult after he laid out Flames tough guy Raitis Ivanans in the third period. The two heavyweights exchanged words before dropping the gloves. MacIntrye then unleashed two vicious right hands, sending a stunned Ivanans to the ice for several minutes. Bloodied and bruised, the Calgary winger needed assistance from his teammates en route to the dressing room.

Disallowed goal

The Oilers thought they had opened the scoring early in the first period. Winger Dustin Penner fought off White and slid into Kiprusoff feet first as the puck crossed the goal-line. But Penner was called for goaltender interference, which negated the goal. Penner didn't receive a penalty, but the sellout crowd wasn't amused by the call. 

With files from The Canadian Press