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JONES: Oilers need to keep the fire burning after Battle of Alberta blaze dies down – Edmonton Sun

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It was a game to frame, to mount, to bottle, to cherish, to treasure and put in a special place in your memory bank.

It was three games in four days, two back-to-the-Battle-of-Alberta specials and a most meaningful victory over the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues during the ‘intermission.’

Super Bowl or no Super Bowl, that game in Calgary was going to remain The Game this weekend to fans in this part of the sports world, and a lot of other places as well.

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The 8-3 Edmonton Oilers’ win over the Calgary Flames was arguably the most memorable and significant hockey game involving the Oilers so far this century.

And they’ll be talking about it until April 4 when, in Game 82, the teams return to the scene to play again. (And as a programming note, please, hockey gods, give us a first-round series between these two teams for the first time since 1991.)

The problem for the Oilers now is the Flames games are over until then and it’s not going to be easy to put them in the rearview mirror.

There is no understating the significance of achieving five of six points in the trio of tests — Calgary, St. Louis, Calgary.

Those three games, particularly the one Saturday in the Saddledome on Hockey Night In Canada in a back-to-back situation on the road, illustrated the growth and development of the Oilers into a prepared-to-play-playoff-hockey group.

It’s been a long time since the Oilers went to Calgary and played refuse-to-lose hockey. Edmonton had lost four of its last five games in the Saddledome and all three meetings with the Flames this season.

But, with arguably manufactured ire for Flames goaltender David Rittich’s total joy ‘bat flip’ of his goalie stick after poke-checking Leon Draisaitl to win the shootout on Wednesday in Edmonton, the Oilers shed their snake skin and rubbed his face in it.

One of the flaws in the mental make-up of this team had been a reluctance to come out of the dressing room with unreserved gusto and grab a game by the throat.

Giving up the first goal of the game, only 11 seconds after the opening face off all the way back in their first meeting of the season with the Flames had happened far too frequently.

Edmonton had given up the first goal in all three games against Calgary this season.

But Kailer Yamamoto scored 29 seconds into this ohe and Zack Kassian at 1:05.

The Oilers are 22-4-2 when scoring first. When they show up determined to win the little battles and races to the puck and instil their will on a game, they usually win it. And in this one, their third game in four nights of tough sledding, they were, to use the words of goalie Mike Smith, “relentless.”

There was so much buzz and so much hype following the Oilers’ one-goal loss in Calgary, the Kassian-Matthew Tkatchuk Turtle Game, it was considered impossible to come off 10-days without playing and manufacture a game that could come close to living up to the buildup. But the Oilers’ shootout loss did that and then some.

And to return to the rivalry coming off the win against the Stanley Cup champions, how could anyone expect Edmonton to give the hockey world a Battle of Alberta game for the ages like they did, overflowing with desire and emotion and featuring the first goalie fight in the history of the provincial rivalry, and first in the NHL since 2013? And it was one between former Flames goalie Mike Smith and former Oilers goalie Cam Talbot. Smith, who once scored a goal, ended up with a career Gordie Howe hat trick — a goal, an assist and a fight.

It was a game that had it all: 102 penalty minutes, 75 shots on goal, 11 goals, four goalies, three fights, a line-brawl and a penalty-shot goal. But now, as the Oilers prepare to play the Arizona Coyotes in the desert Tuesday, there’s an entire new challenge. It’s easy to hate the Calgary Flames, but who can work up a hate for Arizona?

Has this team found the maturity to now head into the final 30 games of the schedule and keep their 8-1-2 roll going, while switching modes to playing separation games.

That’s where they’re at now.

The Oilers left Calgary sitting two points back of the Pacific Division-leading Vancouver Canucks, one point up on now third-place Vegas and two up on Calgary with two games in hand.

A win in Arizona would start to see some separation.

Next week in the second game of a three-game home stand, the Nashville Predators visit Rogers Place seven-points back of the Oilers. That’s a separation game.

In the third game, the Chicago Blackhawks come to town. They’re the horse coming from off the pace to get into the race, suddenly six points back of Edmonton. That’s another separation game.

The fuel that fired the Oilers in their first three games coming out of the break won’t be there quite like Calgary-St.Louis-Calgary. The Oilers are going to have to supply their own juice now.

And let’s see how they do at that.

E-mail: tjones@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @ByTerryJones

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings – Sportsnet.ca

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings

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Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record point streak to 21 games with a second-period goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

With Toronto in front 3-0, thanks to goals from Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander just 1:06 apart earlier in the second, Marner checked in with a slapshot marker after a Kings turnover inside their blue line.

Gotta See It: Maple Leafs’ Marner scores to extend point streak to 21 games

The Maple Leafs (17-5-6) won for the seventh time in eight outings and handed Los Angeles (14-11-4) its seventh loss in 10 games.

With Canadian pop star Justin Bieber among the 18,567 at Scotiabank Arena, Marner scored his 11th of the season. He has 10 goals and 16 assists in his 21-game point streak.

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Marner’s streak is now tied for 23rd all-time in the NHL with Dave Taylor, Adam Oates and Bobby Hull.

Marner also became the 10th different player in the past 35 years to string together a point streak of 21 or more games and the third active skater, behind Patrick Kane (26 games in 2015-16) and Sidney Crosby (25 games in 2010-11).

Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout in a Maple Leafs sweater and the seventh of his career.

The Maple Leafs outshot their opponents 41-29.

Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves, kept his club in the game for the opening 25 minutes.

The Maple Leafs had outshot the visitors 19-7 when Engvall beat Quick with a wrist shot for a power-play goal 5:10 into the second period.

Twenty-six seconds later, Kampf employed linemate Alex Kerfoot as a decoy to score on a two-on-one rush started by Kerfoot to provide the Maple Leafs with a two-goal advantage.

Nylander checked in with his 15th of the season, and fifth in seven games, on a breakaway goal 40 seconds later. He also set up Auston Matthews for his 14th goal midway through the final period.

Kerfoot was good for two assists against the Kings.

Engvall’s night ended early in the third period when he was given a match penalty for intent to injure after he high-sticked Kings defenceman Sean Durzi, a former Toronto draft pick, in the back of the head in the neutral zone.

During the ensuing five-minute power-play, Los Angeles winger Adrian Kempe scored but the goal was rescinded after a video review determined the play was offside.

BRODIE’S BACK

Maple Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence because of an oblique injury, playing alongside newcomer Conor Timmins. Toronto went 9-0-3 without Brodie.

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As winter meetings come to a close, Blue Jays opt to wait for other opportunities

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Hazel Mae sits down with Toronto Blue Jays manager John Schneider to discuss his experience at the winter meetings, what the Blue Jays will look to improve upon this offseason, whether outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. can play in right field, and more.

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