'The hatred is real': Oilers dominate Flames in latest chapter of Battle of Alberta
Talbot, Smith drop their gloves (and blockers) in 1st NHL goalie fight since 2013
Goalie Mike Smith calmly skated to centre ice and watched the line brawl unfold between his Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames.
Unhappy with Calgary goalie Cam Talbot hitting his mates, Smith tossed aside his paddle, sloughed off his blocker and glove, and flipped off his mask.
He waited menacingly until Talbot skated across the blueline. Initially, the Calgary netminder threw three rights. Then Smith unloaded with a flurry of his own, and Talbot crumpled to the ice.
"Talbot gets in there, mixes it up a little bit, throws some blockers – I didn't really like that too much," Smith said after the Oilers clobbered the Flames 8-3 Saturday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
"He obliged. Everyone likes to see a good, old-fashioned goalie fight, me included. It got the juices flowing like they haven't been before."
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Never before — not even during the era of Marty McSorley, Dave Semenko, Doug Risborough and Neil Sheehy — had goalies fought in the Battle of Alberta.
'We hate each other'
The officials ended the second period 24 seconds early to assess the penalties – and allow tempers to cool.
"What have you learned about the Battle of Alberta?" Hockey Night in Canada host Scott Oake asked Kailer Yamamoto.
"We hate each other," the Oiler newcomer replied. "The hatred is real."
Indeed. Talbot received two minutes for leaving the crease, a double minor for roughing, a major for fighting and a game misconduct. That's 21 penalty minutes for a guy who entered the game with 12 over his entire seven-year career.
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Smith was slapped with 17 minutes, including a game misconduct. Colin Cooper, a former Junior 'A' Calgary Canuck, served as the emergency goaltender for both the Oilers and the Flames.
"Credit to both goalies for doing that," said Oilers sniper Leon Draisaitl said of the combatants in the first NHL goalie fight since Braden Holtby and the late Ray Emery in 2013. "Obviously, Smitty is a tough customer."
The Flames won the first three games this season in the renewed Battle of Alberta, including a 4-3 shootout victory last Wednesday in Edmonton.
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In that game, David Rittich channelled his inner Jose Bautista by flipping his goalie stick high in the air after poke-checking Draisaitl in the shootout to secure the win.
'It's just disrespectful'
On Saturday night, the Oilers loudly chirped the Calgary goalie as he skated to his bench after interim head coach Geoff Ward applied the hook while trailing 4-1 in the second period.
"It's just disrespectful, you know," Draisaitl said. "We hit two posts, and he's celebrating like they just won the Stanley Cup.
"I get it. They're excited. They won the game in a shootout. But show some respect."
Forced back in the net after Talbot's ejection, Rittich gave up a total of six goals on 28 shots on a night to forget.
"I was fortunate enough to play with Ritter, so I have a relationship with him," Smith said. "He's a fiery guy, but sometimes it goes a little too far. I think sometimes what goes around, comes around."
Post-game, Talbot said he lost his cool when Oilers forward Sam Gagner kept poking at the puck after the whistle.
"I didn't like the fact he comes in and spears me in the back," Talbot said. "In a game like that, those things set you off. I reacted accordingly. Probably not the smartest reaction on my part.
"But it was a highly emotional game, and my emotions got the best of me."
The Oilers plan to build on those emotions as they charge toward the post-season playing their best hockey of the year. The line brawl and ensuing goalie fight aside, the Oilers dominated their provincial rivals Saturday in every aspect of the game.
An important 2 points
With the victory, the Oilers (28-18-6) sit in sole possession of second place in the Western Conference.
"There's a lot we can take from this," Smith said. "We stuck together. We got a big win against a good hockey team and kept moving up in the standings."
The Flames (27-20-6) drop into fourth place and a wildcard spot.
Their reaction to such an embarrassing beatdown will go a long way in determining their playoff fate.
"I want the feeling to stick with us," Ward said. "If you're not a little bit angry about what happened tonight and it's not bothering you, then we probably have an issue."
The two teams meet again one final time this regular season on April 4 in Calgary.