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Battle of Alberta fuelled by relevance of Flames and Oilers

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For sparks to turn into flames, the right conditions must be met.

Combustible elements are needed. Rising heat is, too, to bring those elements to their flash point — the temperature at which they can ignite — and so is oxygen to keep the whole thing going.

If there were doubts that those conditions were present in this rendition of the Battle of Alberta, Saturday night erased them.

Matthew Tkachuk provided that initial spark weeks ago with his series of hits on Zack Kassian, stick flips and post-game wars of words filled Alberta arenas with oxygen and — perhaps most importantly — the Edmonton Oilers’ and Calgary Flames’ respective returns to playoff-picture relevance ratcheted up the temperature enough to to cause Saturday night’s goalie-fight ignition.

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For Battle of Alberta veterans Jim Peplinski and Martin Gelinas, the formula for how it unfolded was familiar.

“When I go back into the early 80s,” Peplinski, who won a Stanley Cup with Calgary in the 1988-89 season, recalled during Hockey Night in Canada’s After Hours segment, “when I first got to Calgary I can remember [former Flames forward] Willie Plett saying in the first year ‘Why would we go to Edmonton, they should just mail us the two points.’ We didn’t expect the Oilers to be competitive.

“The next year, they just took off and then they schooled us. The way we ended up starting to compete was having to get involved. And when you got involved, as Tkachuk is doing now, it forces the rest of your team to either show up or disappear. If you look at the previous game in Edmonton, when you see Monahan getting into an emotional altercation, that’s showing up.”

Saturday’s Flames-Oilers battle had no shortage of that brand of “showing up.” All told, 102 penalty minutes were handed out. Six of those penalties were fighting majors. For the first time in Battle of Alberta history, goalies dropped their gloves and blockers and threw punches.

Those fireworks coinciding with Calgary and Edmonton’s stature in the standings is no coincidence. The Oilers hold a slight edge with 62 points, while the Flames are sitting at 60, and with that the spectre of a potential first-round playoff matchup looms over each regular-season meeting.

“We’ve got two teams that have got some highly skilled players, very competitive,” Gelinas, who played for Edmonton for five seasons and now serves as Calgary’s assistant coach, said. “We use the word ‘hate’ [to describe how the teams feel about each other], you put that in the playoffs, I think it would be amped up and get even bigger.”

That line of thinking stems as much from personal experiences as it does from knowing the players currently involved.

Among the many memorable Battle of Alberta tilts Gelinas laced up the skates for, the most notable in his mind was the 1991 playoffs — the last time Edmonton and Calgary met in the post-season, 29 years ago.

The Flames and Oilers went head-to-head in the first round that year. Despite Calgary finishing 20 points ahead of Edmonton in the regular season, it lost to the defending champion in seven games.

“Going back to that first playoff run in 1991,” Gelinas recalled, “every game, every shift meant something. I had to go back yesterday and look at some of the clips, and you could see every guy finishing their checks. It was skill, it was physical, it was hard, it was back-and-forth.

“You had some character on both sides, too. We had Esa Tikkanen on our side, they had Theo Fleury, some guys that were in the fabric of the game — just like Matthew Tkachuk.”

That sentiment — that for the Battle of Alberta to be at its best, both parties must be, too –is shared by Peplinski.

As someone who played against high-skill teams like the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders during the 70s and 80s, Peplinski is no stranger to what the modern-day, Connor McDavid-led Oilers are capable of offensively.

But the Oilers of the past — like these Oilers are now showing — were capable of beating you with more than just speed and skill.

“Edmonton was an interesting mix of a team that had an incredible amount of speed, but they also wanted to put you into the ground,” Peplinski recalled. “I think a lot of that had to do with [Glen Slather]. When we would play the Oilers, if they got up by one [goal] they wanted to be up by two, it was never over.

“And so I give Edmonton a lot of credit for what Calgary became because if you didn’t show up, if you weren’t ready, every second, you would either get hurt or you’d get embarrassed.”

No one was hurt on Saturday, thankfully, but an 8-3 margin of victory for the Oilers fits the embarrassing bill — for one side, at least — adding further fuel to a rivalry that’s once more burning bright.

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Canucks keep surprising with ‘inexplicable’ comeback vs. Canadiens

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VANCOUVER – Two weeks into his Calder Trophy season four years ago, Elias Pettersson was thrown violently to the ice in Florida by defenceman Mike Matheson, who had been embarrassed by the rookie Vancouver Canuck earlier in the shift.

Pettersson suffered a concussion, Matheson a two-game suspension and the incident set off an inferno of debate about the culture of both the Canucks and the National Hockey League.

But even then, as a 19-year-old with the physique of a 2-iron, Pettersson was tougher than he seemed. Tougher mentally and physically. Four years later for Pettersson and two teams later for Matheson, the Canucks’ elite two-way centre victimized the Montreal Canadiens’ defenceman in overtime to give Vancouver an inexplicable 7-6 victory in front of fans who have rarely been so entertained.

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Pettersson may or may not have caused Matheson to blow a tire and lose the puck by touching the defenceman’s leg with his stick, but there was little doubt about the significance of the goal it caused – for the Canucks and Pettersson.

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Stronger in every sense than he was four years ago, Pettersson skated the puck to the net from a sharp angle as Matheson retreated and tucked a forehand deke through the pads of Montreal goalie Sam Montembeault.

Asked after the game if he realized in the moment whom he had just pilfered and embarrassed, Pettersson looked a long time at the questioner before deadpanning: “I’m going to say, ‘No comment.’” He knew.

This was Pettersson’s revenge.

At least that’s the storyline we’re going with in a game that could have spawned an alternate universe. For the first time since 1973, the Canucks rallied from a four-goal deficit to win. After the Canadiens scored four times in the first period, the Canucks eventually blew a 5-4 lead late in the third, trailed 6-5, then tied it on Andrei Kuzmenko’s power-play goal with Vancouver relief netminder Collin Delia on the bench for an extra attacker.

And then Pettersson won it 13 seconds into overtime.

“If they had called a penalty there, I would have been upset,” he said. “I didn’t touch his skates. I saw that I had an open lane (to the net). And I saw their goalie had one knee down at the post and it looked like if I made a long move, I might be able to get it through.”

Later, in his press scrum, Pettersson told reporters: “I don’t know if it was relief to score a goal or whatever, but just, overall, the emotion all game, to be down four and come back, be down one again and then tie it at the end, it was a game that had a lot of emotions and I’m glad we came up on top tonight.”

Canucks’ Pettersson hoping team can build off come from behind win over Canadiens

A game with 13 goals deserves that many clauses in one sentence.

“Man, we got the two points; that’s all I can say,” Canuck captain Bo Horvat said. “At the end of the day, I don’t care how we did it, we got it done. Obviously, it was not pretty. We made it pretty hard on ourselves but we showed a lot of resilience tonight. And Dells stepping in (for starting goalie Spencer Martin) and playing as well as he did … it was a fun one. It was a Monday Night Football game.”

Maybe the Canucks would be good at football. They appear to have some flaws as a hockey team.

Unable to figure how to defend leads and win, now they don’t even know how to lose properly. Canuck teams don’t come back from 4-0 late in the second period. They don’t score seven goals in the final 23½ minutes.

They don’t finish a four-game homestand at 2-2 when they led for less than seven minutes in more than four hours of hockey.

“That’s just the rollercoaster of emotions — kind of how you do not want to play the game, really,” Canuck veteran J.T. Miller said. “You want to play even-keel. But when you give up four that quickly, it was kind of a shell shock because … we had been absolutely dominant. Shots were 9-0 (at the start). A couple breakdowns and we’ve just got to get out of that habit of giving them up bang, bang, bang, bang. You’re not going to come back from 4-0 every day. But we talked about getting two in the second (period). But we had so many guys step up. Petey’s line was awesome; Petey was dominant.”

After Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win against Arizona, when the Canucks chased the mighty Coyotes all game, Pettersson’s line was reconfigured by desperate coach Bruce Boudreau. Brock Boeser, who went from being a healthy scratch to outed on the trade block to goal-scoring hero in one eventful Saturday, was deployed Monday alongside Pettersson and winger Ilya Mikheyev.

Mikheyev scored twice on perfect passes from Pettersson, who finished with three points, giving him 32 in 26 games this season.

Canucks’ Pettersson slips game winner five-hole to cap OT thriller vs. Canadiens

Horvat, Conor Garland and Jack Studnicka, with the Canucks’ first go-ahead goal at 8:49 of the third period, also scored for Vancouver.

It was impossible to foresee when the score was 4-0 that Studnicka and Delia would become key figures in a Canuck victory. But most of their season has been a surprise. The Canucks are Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.

“It’s funny, I feel like every game, it’s so live or die,” Miller said. “It’s 82 games. We’ve won a lot of games in the last 15 or 20 (but), it’s a process. It’s not going to be pretty every night. I’m just proud of the group. We had a lot of different guys step up tonight, which is awesome.”

The Canucks have lost seven games this season after leading by two or three goals. But now they’ve won one when they trailed by four.

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Darnell Nurse sounds off on Edmonton Oilers slow starts after Stuart Skinner faces 50 shots

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Another slow start for the Edmonton Oilers wasn’t their undoing against the Washington Capitals in Monday’s 3-2 loss, but it certainly didn’t help either.

The Oilers were outshot 22-12 in the opening frame, with Stuart Skinner turning aside all 22 in his eventual 47-save performance in the loss.

“We come in here and we talk about it every day,” Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse said of his team’s starts. “We sit here after the game, talk about it over and over and over. … We want to have good starts each and every night but, you know, we’re sitting here and it’s a part of our game. We’re almost a quarter of the way through the season.

“The more we just talk away and pester at it, we need to just show up and play. Relax, pin our ears back and come out on the on the attack.”

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The Oilers were outshot 50-30 on Monday, including 19-7 in the second period, when Skinner allowed two goals.

“We weren’t as quick and physical as we wanted to be in the defensive zone,” Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said. “Our goalie stood tall. We’re 2-2 going into the third period. We made a critical error, and it ended up in the back of our net.”

Skinner Unfazed as Oilers Allow 50 Shots

Skinner, who has moved into the starting role ahead of Jack Campbell over the past month, saw his record drop to 7-6 on the season, with a .916 save percentage and a 2.93 goals-against average.

The 50 shots faced against the Capitals were a season high for Skinner, who said the early barrage helped put him the zone.

“I think if you get a few [early] chances on you and make all the saves, it’s a little bit of a confidence booster,” Skinner said. “They got on the power play and I got a few shots on the power play, so after that I was ready to go.”

The loss dropped the Oilers to 14-12-0 on the season as the team currently sits in the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

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Recap: Brazil vs South Korea – World Cup 2022

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Neymar has returned from injury to help Brazil thump South Korea 4-1, setting up a World Cup quarter-final clash against Croatia.

Four unanswered Brazilian goals in the first half at Stadium 974 on Monday set an imperious tone for a team with their sights firmly on a sixth World Cup title.

And while the game settled in the second period, it was never sluggish or scrappy, and a spirited South Korea fought hard to score a consolation goal in the 76th minute.

It took just seven minutes for Brazil to get off the mark, with Raphinha picking up the ball just outside the box and rushing in on the right side, sending in a pass to Neymar. The Paris Saint-Germain number 10 was brought down by his marker and the ball ended up at the feet of Vinicius Jr, in acres of space.

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The Real Madrid star steadied himself before placing it to the right of Kim Seung-gyu in the South Korean goal.

Brazil celebrating their third goal, with goalscorer Richarlison in the centre [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Just three minutes later, Richarlison was brought down by Jung Woo-young inside the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Neymar, who had reportedly flown his barber out to Qatar to dye his hair blonde following previous victories over South Korea with bleached hair, wasted no time in slotting it into the bottom-right of the net. Brazil was up two-nil with less than 15 minutes on the clock.

South Korea had their share of chances, with Hwang Hee-chan, fresh off scoring the winner against Portugal, having a go from a distance but sending the ball comfortably over the bar. Moments later, Allison was forced to make a diving save to his left, his first save of the tournament.

But Paolo Bento’s men were simply outclassed in every part of the pitch.

A remarkable piece of skill in the 26th minute saw Richarlison juggling the ball, heading it to himself three times while evading defenders on the edge of the South Korean box. He then passed the ball before running through on goal to receive the return, firing the ball in for Brazil’s third.

Just 10 minutes later, Vinicius Jr set up Lucas Paqueta with a cheeky chip, and the midfielder shot low and right. Kim Seung-gyu could do little but look at the ball nestling in the back of the net.

With four goals before half-time, Brazil was putting down a marker for any teams who think they might have a chance of lifting the trophy on December 18.

Son Heung-min nearly clawed one back for South Korea straight after the restart, but Alisson — who must, through this game alone, be in contention for the Golden Glove — got enough of his arm onto the shot to tip it wide.

Faced with the intensity of Brazil’s onslaught, South Korea tried to slow the game, but more chances for Raphinha and Vinicius Jr followed despite the best efforts of the men in red.

Then came the 77th minute, and out of nowhere, Paik Seung-ho scored from outside the box. A free kick for South Korea was bundled clear by the Brazilian defence, falling to Paik, who belted it past Alisson’s dive to find the top-right corner. Finally, the South Korean fans had something to cheer about.

South Korea continued to work hard in defence and create chances in attack, but that goal was to be their only score, and they head home having been soundly beaten by one of the best teams in the world.

Brazil will face Croatia in the quarter-finals at Education City on Friday.

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