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Sykora stars as Oilers win first round of "Battle of Alberta"

Oct 6, 2006 - 5:05 AM EDMONTON, Alberta (Ticker) -- Petr Sykora sat in limbo for nearly 1 1/2 months before the Edmonton Oilers came calling. He wasted little time proving they made a good decision.

Sykora scored two goals and set up another as the Oilers began the 27th version of the "Battle of Alberta" with a 3-1 triumph over the Calgary Flames in the season opener for both teams.

After splitting last season with Anaheim and the New York Rangers, Sykora became a free agent but was unable to find a home until signing a one-year, $2.9 million deal with Edmonton on August 11. The Oilers apparently have made a good investment in the 29-year-old Czech, who has reached the 20-goal plateau each of the past seven campaigns and is on his way to extending that streak.

Sykora opened the scoring with 5:17 remaining in the first period and doubled the lead just over three minutes later during a 5-on-3 advantage. He completed his three-point effort by helping set up defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist midway through the third.

"It was awesome," Sykora said. "I don't think you could really wish for a better start. I didn't really care about scoring or anything, I just wanted to have a really good hockey game - win faceoffs, get some good shots on the power play or help the guys defensively."

Dwayne Roloson kept Calgary off the scoreboard through two periods by making 23 saves, including one on Jarome Iginla's penalty-shot attempt just prior to Sykora's first tally. But the Flames' captain spoiled the shutout bid with 5 1/2 minutes to go in the final period.

Ales Hemsky recorded two assists and Roloson finished with 31 saves for Edmonton, which improved to 12-5-3 in season openers at home.

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 19 shots in Jim Playfair's coaching debut with the Flames, who went 0-for-9 on the power play.

"We were able to draw a ton of penalties, and that means that we were skating," Iginla said. "But it came down to our power play. We had our chances, but we've got to be better. ... Their penalty kill was good and we didn't find a way to get one. When you get that many power plays in a two-goal game for most of the game, as a power play, you have to find one."

Looking to extend their six-game unbeaten streak in season openers, the Oilers dodged a bullet with 5:47 to go in the first as Iginla was awarded a penalty shot after being pulled down by defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron on a breakaway.

However, after gliding toward the net from the right side, Iginla had his backhander turned aside by Roloson, keeping the game scoreless.

"It would have been nice to get that for the team," Iginla said. "It can be a big momentum boost either way, and unfortunately, Rollie made a good save on the backhand. ... The ice was still good at that point of the game, so I was trying to go wide and take a different angle. You know what? He made a good save."

Just 30 seconds later, Sykora fired a loose puck past Kiprusoff after a scramble in front for a 1-0 lead. He made it a two-goal cushion with 2:11 to go in the session, one-timing Jarret Stoll's pass from the high slot by the Finnish netminder.

"Tonight, I was the guy on the right end of the rebound, but other nights it's going to be some other guys," Sykora said. "I'm just really happy with the way things went today. But now I'm going to forget about this game when I go home and get ready for the next game because they're coming pretty quickly."

The Oilers visit the Flames for the back end of a home-and-home series on Saturday.

Kristian Huselius nearly halved the deficit with 15 minutes to go in the third, but his shot rang off the goalpost. Shortly thereafter, Edmonton expanded its advantage as Tjarnqvist wristed a shot into the net as Raffi Torres skated in front of Kiprusoff to set a screen.

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