Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle each scored a power-play goal, but Nikolai Khabibulin was the story once again, stoning Capitals shooters on 34 occasions to capture a well-earned 2-1 win Thursday night at Rexall Place.
With the Capitals leading 3-1 in shots, Theo Peckham was charged with cross-checking at 2:52, putting Washington on the game's first power-play. The visitors were unable to generate another attempt on Nikolai Khabibulin, keeping the scoreless tie intact.
Monents later on the Capitals' fourth shot, 23-year-old D man Karl Alzner wired a slapper past the orange and blue's 'tender, putting the home side down 1-0 at 5:34 on an even-strength marker.
With 10:05 remaining, penalties to Anton Lander and Washington's Matt Hendricks (hooking and diving) put the teams in a two-minute 4-on-4 situation. The Capitals added two shots, but nothing too dangerous as the squads returned to even-strength action with under seven minutes to play.
Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle orchestrated a strong sequence at 15:23, allowing Cam Barker to walk into a slapshot on the scrambling Capitals; No. 13 cranked the iron, but the Oilers did draw a penalty when Alex Semin was assessed a hooking minor.
One minute into the chance, a slashing minor to Ryan Smyth canceled the power-play opportunity; but 14 seconds later, the Capitals were charged another when John Carlson's delay of game minor provided the home side with a 4-on-3 man-advantage.
That chanced passed without incident, but the penalty box doors continued to swing with 2:17 on the clock to keep the Oilers on the PP. With Roman Hamrlik in the box, an incredible tic-tac-toe play choreographed by Corey Potter and Eberle ended with Hall polishing the puck into the gaping cage behind Tomas Voukon.
The Oilers' late power-play goal at 18:15 pulled the home team even 1-1 on the scoreboard, but headed into locker room down 9-5 in shots.
The parade to the box continued in the second when Washington's Jeff Schultz was called for hooking at 4:29. The Oilers struggled to maintain possession, turning the puck over several times as the advantage passed.
As the period's 10-mintue mark passed, the Oilers surrendered to a 13-8 shot disadvantage but began to chip away at the Capitals in the hitting department. Ben Eager and Andy Sutton in particular crushed Marcus Johansson and others during a minute-long sequence in the Oilers end, setting a positive tone.
With 7:56 on the clock, Washington's Troy Brouwer was assessed a hooking minor, sending the Oilers to their third power-play chance. It took the home side 39 seconds to cash; a point blast by Potter was stopped, but a rebound popped into the circle where Eberle pounced, sliding the puck into the wide-open net and giving his club a 2-1 lead.
The Capitals' seventh, eighth and ninth penalties came late in the period, putting the Oilers on additional man-advantage opportunities (including a 5-on-3 chance for 57 seconds). RNH, Eberle and Hall worked some more magic, but the 3-1 goal couldn't be recorded.
With 40 minutes in the books, the Oilers held a 2-1 lead on the scoreboard and had closed the shot gap to a 16-13 Capitals edge.
Khabibulin was tasked to come up big early, turning aside several Capitals attempts before Ladislav Smid was assessed a roughing minor at 1:22. No. 35 stopped another four on the power-play, including a spectacular sliding denial to preserve his club's lead.
The Oilers battled back, peppering Vokoun with goal-line chances at will, but the 35-year-old netminder stoned Ryan Smyth at the doorstep to keep the Oilers' 2-1 lead on the board.
Once the period's midway point passed, the Capitals had extended to a 28-16 shot edge but were unable to come any closer on the scoreboard.
With 5:01 remaining, the Oilers' 3-3 PK got a chance to improve and keep the team's lead in the waning moments; Anton Lander was charged with tripping. The Caps came close on the advantage, but Khabibulin's glove-side post denied Washington's Dennis Wideman to keep the Oilers within minutes of a win.
A roughing call to Andy Sutton at 18:56 put the Capitals back on the power-play at the most important time. The visitors' advantage was extended to a two-man chance when Vokoun was pulled for an extra-attacker at the time of the minor, too.
With 15.3 seconds to go, Alex Ovechkin burst down the wing, escaping checks before rifling a shot off the cross-bar and into the netting behind Khabibulin. That's as close as they would come, however, as the remaining seconds elapsed without incident, and the Oilers closed a 2-1 win over the league's best squad.
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