Stempniak hat trick leads Flames past Oilers

January 22, 2012, 5:44 AM

THE CANADIAN PRESS

EDMONTON — The Calgary Flames must be licking their chops every time they see the Edmonton Oilers on the schedule.

Lee Stempniak had a hat trick and added an assist as the Flames continued their push to get into a playoff position with a commanding 6-2 victory over the Oilers on Saturday.

The Flames have won nine games in a row against Edmonton, including all four so far this season. Calgary has 16 wins in its last 17 games against its provincial rival. What was once called the Battle of Alberta has become a one-sided massacre.

Stempniak, who had only one goal to show for his previous 20 games, said it felt pretty good to get three in one night.

"I was the recipient of a couple of good plays and it feels good to score in a win," he said of his second career hat trick. "It was a big game for us and it was nice to be able to contribute like that. It’s a relief to get some goals. Hopefully that is the start, and I can get rolling off of this."

Blake Comeau and Jay Bouwmeester each had a goal and two assists and Mikael Backlund also scored for the Flames (23-20-6) who have gone 5-1-1 in their last seven games.

"We know how important the points are the rest of the way in and we want to play consistently hard hockey," Comeau said. "We played well on this road trip, and if we can continue to do that and play as well as we have at home, I think we are going to set ourselves up nicely. Everyone is keeping their eyes on the standings right now. There aren’t going to be any easy games from here on out."

Andy Sutton and Ryan Smyth replied for the Oilers (17-26-4), who are digging themselves a canyon at the moment with only one win in their last nine games and wins in just five of their last 25 outings.

"It’s unacceptable," Smyth said. "Everybody has to look in the mirror and take responsibility right now. We have to come and play hard with pride, character and care."

Oilers head coach Tom Renney said his team’s start took them out of contention early on.

"We got ourselves behind the eight-ball right away," he said. "We weren’t very smart. Calgary has played very disciplined against us and we needed to match that intelligence and play the way we need to play to have success.

"I think they are giving it everything they have, but are at a little bit of a loss right now. It may be a confidence issue. But the answer is with them, not anybody else."

Calgary started the scoring seven minutes into the game.

Just after an Oiler penalty expired, Mark Giordano made a great cross-ice pass to give Backlund an open net to shoot in his fourth of the season before Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin could get across.

Three minutes later it was 2-0 Flames as Comeau blasted a shot from the top of the circle that clipped Khabibulin’s pad before rolling into the net.

The Flames went up by three goals with a minute left to play in the first when Stempniak picked the top corner on a quick wrist shot for his 10th of the season.

The best chances in the second period primarily belonged to the Flames. They were finally rewarded with just 36 seconds remaining when Stempniak scored on another long shot, beating Khabibulin with a low shot to the glove side from the top of the faceoff circle to make it 4-0 after 40 minutes.

The shots at that point were an even 16-16 but Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was not called on to make any major stops.

Devan Dubnyk came in to replace Khabibulin in the Edmonton net to start the third.

The Oilers finally broke Kiprusoff’s shutout bid four minutes into the third as Jordan Ebele found Sutton pinching in from the point. Sutton’s goal broke a stretch of seven periods without a score for Edmonton.

Calgary quickly restored its four-goal advantage on the power play as a Jarome Iginla shot was deflected by Bouwmeester and hit the post but then hit the back of Dubnyk’s skates and went into the net.

Edmonton got that goal back with four minutes left as Smyth tipped in a Jeff Petry point shot for his 16th of the season.

Despite being down by three goals, the Oilers pulled Dubnyk with three minutes left, allowing Stempniak to score his hat trick goal into the empty net.

Edmonton remains at home to play San Jose on Monday. The Sharks will then travel to Calgary to play the Flames on Tuesday.

.Notes: 2010 first-overall draft pick Taylor Hall returned to the lineup after taking 30 stitches above his left eye two games previous in Columbus when he fell in the pre-game warm-up and took a skate from teammate Corey Potter. It was his first appearance in a game against Calgary this year. … Both teams wore helmets in the pre-game warm-up in the wake of the Hall accident. … Centre Eric Belanger also returned to the lineup for the Oilers, who were still without forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and defenders Ryan Whitney, Tom Gilbert and Cam Barker. … The Flames were missing forwards Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross and David Moss. However, veteran forward Brendan Morrison was able to return from an upper-body injury after missing the last six games.

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