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Flames torch skidding Oilers

The SportsXchange

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Calgary Flames were supposed to be an easy mark.

They were stripped down at the NHL trade deadline, they've been gutted by illness and injury, they were exhausted by the schedule and they were beaten 8-2 when they last crossed paths with Edmonton.

But wouldn't you know it, their skeletal remains rolled into Rexall Place for the rematch and gave it to the shell-shocked Oilers, beating them 4-1 in a game that easily could have been 8-1.

"They're a proud team and we weren't desperate enough, plain and simple," Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff said. "Tonight, for every one us in here, was embarrassing."

The Oilers are in a full-on tailspin, having scored just four goals in five straight losses. Ten days ago, they were sitting in eighth place in the Western Conference. Now, they're 12th and sinking fast.

"We had a legitimate shot at a playoff spot," Edmonton's Sam Gagner said. "When you lose a few games, you get away from what made you successful, and it's unacceptable. You have to put in the work and build your habits and tonight it wasn't there.

"You have to go out and do something about it, show a little compete level, show a little passion, get ------ off at each other. It's up to us to turn things around. It's not just going to happen in here."

The Flames had every reason to lose. Having already been stripped of Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester at the trade deadline, they were without Curtis Glencross, Alex Tanguay, Matt Stajan and Steve Begin because of illness and injury. They had six minor leaguers in the lineup and were playing their third game in four nights.

And they were the better team by a country mile.

The Flames jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Mikael Backlund picked the top corner on Nikolai Khabibulin just 26 seconds after the opening faceoff and continued to press all night.

The Oilers managed to tie it on a rare goal from Lennart Petrell, but they couldn't keep up with what was left of the Flames.

Calgary's Dennis Wideman made it 2-1 on a power-play goal at 1:55 and Sven Baertschi made it 3-1 on an unassisted goal three minutes later, drawing a loud chorus of boos from the fans.

Flames rookie Max Reinhart, who has been in the league less than two weeks, put it away with the goal that made it 4-1 midway through the second period after a terrible giveaway by Justin Schultz.

While the Flames have resigned themselves to the fact they're going to finish deep in the standings, it doesn't mean they're going to roll over.

"You want to show every night that you're going to work 100 percent," Flames goaltender Joey MacDonald said. "We have a lot of young guys who want to be here next year, myself, too. I want a contract for next year, too. I want to show them I belong here. The only way to do that is to play well.

"We just have to keep playing like the way we have been the last four or five games, everybody competing and battling.

"There's a lot of pride in that room. When you get a chance to strap a Flames jersey on, an NHL jersey, you have to play for pride."

Calgary coach Bob Hartley loves the way his team is battling and competing.

"Our last four or five games, the effort, the grit we've put in our game has been very good," he said. "We're using lots of our young players right now, giving them a taste of what it's like in the NHL.

"They can compare themselves to NHL players, especially teams that are making a push for the playoffs. The intensity level is at its best. For them, it's a great gauge to get to go back home in the summer and prepare accordingly."

NOTES: The Oilers revealed that winger Ales Hemsky had been playing the past month with a broken bone in his foot. He injured it blocking a shot March 7 in Detroit but wanted to keep playing through it while Edmonton was in the playoff race. Now that they're out, and it's getting worse, they're going to sit him out for a week at least... The Oilers have the worst faceoff percentage in the NHL at .458, just a buit behind 28th-place Calgary at 47.2. ... With Hemsky out, Nail Yakupov was promoted to his spot on the second line with Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi. Ryan Smyth is the Oilers' nominee for the Masterton Trophy for perseverence and dedication to hockey. ... Edmonton's top line of Taylor Hall, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and Jordan Eberle have been held without a point in all five games of Edmonton's losing streak. ... Tim Jackman had six shots and two assists in Calgary's win.

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