Nikolai Khabibulin was the difference as the Oilers defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2 at Rexall Place Sunday night, despite being outshot by a heavy 28-13 count. Dustin Penner, Ryan Jones and Shawn Horcoff scored for the Oilers, while Taylor Hall recorded his first NHL point with an assist on the winning goal by the newly-named captain.
While the Oilers gained an early 2-0 lead in the middle frame, the Panthers were still the better team offensively and their pressured attack didn't cease. Marty Reasoner recorded a quick tally and brought his team to life, but shortly thereafter, the Oilers responded with a controversial Shawn Horcoff goal that restored the two-goal lead. The goal was questionable and it seemed to kill the Panthers' momentum as the second period wound down. As it concluded, that was the final goal of the night and secured the 3-2 victory.
While the Oilers had their offensive guns clicking the other night against Calgary (which included an incredible 19 first period shots), they were only able to muster 13 all game tonight.
Shawn Horcoff, number 10 for the Oilers, scored the winning goal on October 10th, 2010 (10/10/10).
In terms of offensive pressure, the Oilers were completely outclassed tonight. The heroics of Nikolai Khabibulin saved the day, but so too did the tough defensive corps that blocked 24 shots as well.
The Oilers struggled in the dot tonight, winning only 33% of of all the faceoffs taken; a step down from their pre-season improvement.
To put it mildly, the Oilers had a difficult first period and failed to generate any kind of sustained attack. Nikolai Khabibulin was the difference as he frustrated Florida shooters all night and, in particular, the first period. Khabibulin's best save of the night came midway through the first when he robbed Florida's Christopher Higgins on two point-blank chances on a breakaway. Khabibulin's save brought the Rexall Place crowd to life and kept a disjointed Oilers team in the game.
Nikolai Khabibulin carried over his strong performance from opening night, as he kept the Oilers in the game all night long. The Oilers were dominated on the shot clock but Khabibulin's early-and-often saves were the difference. A couple first period saves on a pair of Florida breakaways were the exclamation point on an overall solid evening between the pipes. As a result, Khabibulin was named tonight's first star.
One thing you can never discount from rugged defenceman Theo Peckham is his work ethic and overall effort, even when things aren't going well. Peckham struggled in the first period when he got caught flat footed a few occasions which resulted in scoring chances for the Panthers. Peckham bounced back and played a solid 19:23 and blocking a team leading five shots in the process; he was rewarded with tonight's third star honours as a result.
Midway through the second period, the Oilers got themselves in significant penalty trouble. Gilbert Brule was among one of the offenders, but his team successfully killed the disadvantage. Brule came out of the box and powered down the ice to pressure the Panthers breakout. At full speed, he cranked Florida defenceman Dmitry Kulikov nearly through the glass and got a rise out of the sold-out Rexall Place crowd.
On this day 31 years ago (October 10, 1979 at Chicago Stadium), Kevin Lowe scored the first goal in team history when he slipped a backhand shot by Blackhawks goaltender Tony Esposito at 9:49 of the first period of the team's first game.
"It's funny. Those are the games that always end up evening themselves out, so it's tough to have one of those early. There will be a game later on where we outplay someone and lose, and we're going to have to swallow that. The big thing is we got a W, we found a way to do it, and we did it together. It's big."
- Ryan Jones on the 3-2 win over Florida
Thursday October 14 vs. Minnesota 6:30 p.m. MT (Sportsnet / 630 CHED)
The Oilers will get a few days off before traveling to Minnesota to play in their first road game of the 2010-2011 regular season, as they put their perfect 2-0 record to the test.