If the Edmonton Oilers didn't know it before, they know it now: the Calgary Flames are for real.
Calgary finished 30 points behind Edmonton in the NHL's Smythe Division during the regular season, but the Flames hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven division final.
Game 4 is tonight at Calgary's Olympic Saddledome, where the Flames won, 3-2, Tuesday.
In tonight's other game, Toronto, leading 2-1, is host to St. Louis. The Maple Leafs gained the advantage by beating the Blues, 5-2, Tuesday night.
Calgary has taken the lead in its series by scoring first and pressing the Oilers in all three zones, nullifying most of the scoring strength of stars Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey.
Fast-skating Edmonton has been left playing catch-up, after allowing Calgary only one win and a tie in eight regular-season games.
Coach Glen Sather said the Oilers can't afford to look beyond the Flames to the next playoff round. In fact, he said, they can't afford to look past tonight's game.
"We have to look at this as a one-game series," Sather said. "We have to win the next game."
A loss would push the Oilers to within one game of elimination and an end of their dream of a third consecutive Stanley Cup.
"If we don't respect them now, the way they played the last three games, then we'll never respect them," said defenseman Coffey.
Calgary shocked the Oilers with a 4-1 victory in Edmonton to start the series. Edmonton thought it was on its way again after a come-from-behind 6-5 win Sunday, but Calgary sent the Oilers reeling again Tuesday.
"These guys are playing tough," Coffey said. "They're playing on emotion. They're hungry. They want to beat us bad."
The Flames had 38 shots on goal, twice as many as Edmonton.
Both teams will hope for more excellent goaltending tonight -- from Grant Fuhr for Edmonton and rookie Mike Vernon for the Flames.
Vernon stretched so far to stop a shot during the first game that he injured his knee and had to be replaced by veteran Reggie Lemelin. But he was back, and impressively, Tuesday. Fuhr was also very strong, stopping the Flames from turning the game into a rout in the third period.
Joe Mullen, who assisted on Joel Otto's game-winner Tuesday, said Calgary isn't letting Fuhr's excellence get them discouraged.
"As long as you keep driving for the net on every play they'll go in eventually," he said. "That's what we keep telling ourselves. Sooner or later, it's bound to go in."