Saturday, April 02, 2016

Reflecting on Calgary's Five Biggest Wins in the Arena Formerly Known as Northlands Coliseum

This is it. Tonight is the final instalment of the Battle of Alberta to be played at Rexall Place, formerly Skyreach Centre, or Northlands Coliseum as it was known during the glory days of the Calgary-Edmonton NHL rivalry.

It will be Calgary's 129th game in Edmonton, including both regular season and playoffs. During the 35 seasons, the Oilers hold the edge 61-55-12

Of those 55 Flames wins -- 21 coming in the last 10 years -- here's a nostalgic look back at five of Calgary's most memorable victories in Edmonton.

1. Smith's Costly Mistake

Date: Wednesday, April 30, 1986
Score: Flames 3, Oilers 2

The Flames (40-31-9) had the second-best regular season record in the conference yet still finished 30 points back of the juggernaut Oilers (56-17-7), who were seeking a third consecutive Stanley Cup. Meeting in the Smythe Division final, the two engaged in a tremendous back-and-forth series. Calgary won 4-1 in game 1 in Edmonton, but lost 6-5 in overtime in game 2. The Flames rebounded to win 5-2 in game 3 at home only to drop the next game 7-5. A 4-1 victory in Edmonton gave the Flames the chance to win the series at home in game 6 but they lost 5-2 to even the series 3-3. That set the stage for game 7.

Goals by Hakan Loob, shorthanded, and Jim Peplinski gave Calgary a 2-0 lead in the second period, only for the Oilers to tie it on goals by Glenn Anderson and Mark Messier. That set up one of the most famous events in the history of the Battle of Alberta. From behind the net, Steve Smith attempted to make a breakout pass but instead the puck hit the back of the left leg of unsuspecting goaltender Grant Fuhr and banked into the net. Credited with the goal was Perry Berezan, who had dumped the puck in and went for a line change. A late line-up insertion by coach Bob Johnson in place of Dan Quinn, Berezan was sitting on the bench when the goal went in.

The goal at 5:14 still left the Oilers with plenty of time to re-group but stunned at the turn of events, they did not muster much against Mike Vernon, held to only six shots in the third. That included a 6-on-4 to end the game, the result of pulling the goalie and a too many men on the ice penalty called on the Flames in the final minute. Smith's infamous blunder came two nights after his speer on Carey Wilson resulted in the centre needing to have his spleen removed.

2. Fleury's Glorious Celebration

Date: Sunday, April 14, 1991
Score: Flames 2, Oilers 1 (OT)

Calgary (46-26-8) finished the regular season two points behind Los Angeles in the Smythe Division, resulting in an opening round match-up with third place Edmonton, who were 20 points back of the Flames. After splitting the first two games in Calgary, both were 3-1 scores, Edmonton returned home and won 4-3 then 5-2 to take a 3-1 series lead. Calgary staved off elimination with a 5-3 win at the Saddledome so the series shifted back to Edmonton for game 6.

Held to just two assists in games 1-5, game six was Theoren Fleury's night. The 22-year-old, who was the team's leading scorer in the regular season with 51 goals and 104 points, had an assist on Paul Ranheim's goal in regulation then won it 4:40 into overtime.

Intercepting Mark Messier's cross-ice pass outside the Flames blue-line, the diminutive centre darted away on a breakaway, outracing Jeff Beukeboom and firing a shot past Grant Fuhr. He then followed it up with a celebration that would be featured on Hockey Night in Canada video montages for decades to come. Starting from the corner of the Oilers end, he repeatedly pumped his arms wildly, slid on his knees and eventually tumbled to an eventual stop deep inside the Flames end where he was mobbed by his teammates.

Unfortunately for Flames fans, Calgary blew a 3-0 lead two nights later in game 7, losing 5-4 at home on Esa Tikkanen's overtime goal. It was the second straight first round exit for the heartbroken Flames after winning the Stanley Cup in 1989.

3. Underdog Staves off Elimination

Date: Wednesday, April 18, 1984
Score: Flames 5, Oilers 4

The Oilers entered the post-season as the Stanley Cup favourite. Edmonton (57-18-5) had 119 points in the regular season, 15 more than anyone else and 37 more than Calgary (34-32-14), who they met in the Smythe Division final.

Trailing 3-1 in the series, the heavy underdog Flames were on the brink of elimination as they trudged up the highway for game 5 in Edmonton. However, they got off to a great start. Leading 3-1 after 20 minutes on goals from Jamie Macoun, Dan Quinn and Jim Peplinski, Calgary took a three-goal lead 46 seconds into the second on Lanny McDonald's goal. After Glenn Anderson got one back for Edmonton, Mike Eaves scored at 9:22 to end the night for Grant Fuhr just halfway through the game. On in relief, Andy Moog was perfect the rest of the way but Reggie Lemelin was good also, stopping 11 of 12 shots in the final 20 minutes to finish with 33 saves.

Calgary returned home and won 5-4 in game 6 on McDonald's overtime goal. However, the series comeback fell short in a 7-4 loss in game 7. The Oilers would go on to win their first Stanley Cup, beginning a run in which to the chagrin of Flames fans, they lifted Lord Stanley's mug five times in a seven-year span.

4. Playoff Dream Crusher

Date: Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Score: Flames 3, Oilers 2

With less than a week to go in the regular season, the Flames had a Western Conference playoff spot clinched while the Oilers -- just a few points behind -- needed to win their final two regular season games for a chance to return to the post-season again. After losing in the Stanley Cup final in 2006, Edmonton had missed the playoffs the following year.

However, the Oilers' post-season aspirations died that night on home ice thanks to a 28-save performance from Miikka Kiprusoff, who was especially sharp in the third when Edmonton outshot Calgary 17-4. The second goal of the game for then-Oiler Curtis Glencross at 13:17 of the third briefly got Edmonton back to even at 2-2 but Owen Nolan beat Dwayne Roloson three minutes later for the game-winner. Adrian Aucoin and Alex Tanguay also scored for Calgary.

That was as close to the playoffs as the Oilers have been since. Edmonton has missed the post-season 10 years in a row.

5. First Win is a Perfect 10

Date: Sunday, February 8, 1981
Score: Flames 10, Oilers 4

In just the second visit to Northlands Coliseum, the Flames picked up their first victory with a 10-4 rout of the Oilers, despite being outshot 46-22.

After giving up the game's first goal, Calgary bounced back to take a 2-1 lead after one then scored five times in the second to surge in front 7-2. Guy Chouinard had two goals and three assists to lead the attack against a not-very-good Oilers goaltending tandem of Eddie Mio and Gary Edwards. Ken Houston had a hat-trick and Kent Nilsson had one goal and three helpers. Brilliant in the Flames net was 21-year-old Pat Riggin with 42 saves.

That 10 goals in Edmonton is a mark that would never be equalled. The closest Calgary would come is scoring eight twice. They won 8-1 on Mar. 22, 2014 and 8-3 on Dec. 1, 1995.


Here are some more great Calgary-Edmonton memories including quotes from some of the players involved, courtesy of Postmedia scribes Wes Gilbertson and Scott Cruickshank.

By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.


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    1 comment:

    1. Those were the days...some blasts from the past.