CALGARY – Sure enough, the Oilers got a chance to retaliate with a stick flip of their own.
It came with 24 seconds left in the second period, a split-second before the first goalie versus goalie fight in the Battle of Alberta’s history.
Yep, you read that right.
Despite all the bad blood flowing for decades between north and south of this great province, it took a matchup between goalies who switched sides this summer to come to blows.
With Cam Talbot throwing blockers into the face of Alex Chiasson as part of an old-school melee in the Flames end, Mike Smith skated to centre ice with hopes of attracting a dance partner.
As Matthew Tkachuk and Ethan Bear traded punches and several others wrestled one another to the ice, Talbot obliged, prompting Smith to first toss his stick, much like David Rittich did to punctuate his shootout triumph Wednesday. His mask and gloves followed.
"Old fashioned hockey right there,"said Smith, one of the few goalies to earn the career Gordie Howe hat trick.
"Obviously Talbot gets in there and mixes up a little bit, throws some blockers. I didn’t really like that. I was just seeing what was happening there. He obliged."
Sporting some swelling on his forehead, Talbot said he regretted being ejected, forcing Rittich to return.
"I didn’t like the fact (Sam Gagner) comes in and spears me when I’m on my back after the whistle," said Talbot of his rationale for engaging in his first NHL fight.
"It kind of sets you off. I reacted accordingly. Probably not the smartest reaction on my part. It was a highly emotional game and my emotions got the best of me."
If there was ever any doubt Rittich’s inadvertent Joey Bautista impression rubbed the Oilers the wrong way Wednesday, their anger was on display as they chirped Rittich while he skated to the bench after being pulled earlier.
Smith and others confirmed it afterwards.
"I’m not going to start a media circus here – I was fortunate enough to play with Ritter so I have a relationship with him,” said Smith.
"He’s a fiery guy, but sometimes it goes a little too far. I think sometimes what goes around comes around."
Added Leon Draisaitl, "It’s just disrespectful. We hit two posts and he’s celebrating like they just won the Stanley Cup. I get it. They’re excited. Good for them. They won the game in the shootout. But show some respect."
The goalie fight was simply another product of intense hatred between two rivals, fuelled by a scrum started with Gagner poking a puck that was underneath Talbot into the net. As the goal was waved off, Mark Giordano jumped Gagner and all hell broke loose.
Talbot went after former Flame Alex Chiasson, Andrew Mangiapane tackled Chiasson and Smith awaited the main event.
Once Talbot got to centre, the six-foot-four, 196-pound netminder was greeted with a series of furious rights by the six-foot-five Smith who outweighs Talbot by 25 pounds.
As the officials skated through a tangled mess of lumber, gloves and helmets, they decided to send both teams to the dressing rooms to sort out the issues.
When they returned from the intermission for the final 24 seconds of the second period, both goalies had been ejected. Unfortunately from there, sanity prevailed, with no sign of Milan Lucic for the fourth time in the battle.
A discussion for another day.
"You’re trying to get at something there and I’m not going there," said Flames coach Geoff Ward when asked if he’d seen enough of Lucic the last three games against Edmonton.
"I have a long history with that player and he’s been good for us this year. I’m not going there."
The media will on Monday, when the man acquired to be a nuclear deterrent will get his say on how he saw things unfold.
In a game the nation must have watched in awe, there were 75 shots, 11 goals, four goalies, three fights and two fans in turtle suits as part of an 8-3 win for the Oilers – their first in four provincial matchups this year.
The goalie grappling represented the NHL’s first all-netminder fight since Braden Holtby and Ray Emery went at it in 2013.
When reached in Arizona during the game, Grant Fuhr said he was shocked to hear no other goalie tandem got at each other during the Battle before.
"I know, and there have been some ugly games," said Fuhr, who was asked if he recalled fighting anyone as an Oiler or Flame.
"No, but four or five bench clearing brawls."
In a game the Oilers led 2-0 just 65 seconds in, the Flames played catch up all night.
Buddy Robinson’s first as a Flame ignited a raucous Saturday night crowd filled with Oilers faithful, only to have Connor McDavid score back-to-back goals, ending Rittich’s night… For the time being.
Between those two goals, Robinson tried turning the tide by fighting Jujhar Khaira, to no avail.
Talbot made several huge stops immediately to help the lift the Flames claw back to with one following goals by Tkachuk and Elias Lindhom. Alas, a minute later Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored and the route was on.
The Oilers controlled play most of the evening, outshooting the hosts by a whopping 49-26, to give the Oilers a feeling of superiority they earned.
They deserved the win, and with it, sole possession of second place in the Pacific, ahead of the fourth-place Flames by two.
In Calgary, the talking point will be Lucic, and the goalie fight.
"I think that’s obviously just the cherry on top a little bit," said Draisaitl.
"Respect to both goalies for doing that. Obviously Smitty’s a tough customer out there. That was an entertaining game."
They next meet on the final game of the season, in Calgary Apr. 4.