After a shaky start to the season, the “Bulin Wall” is standing tall in Edmonton.
Nikolai Khabibulin made 39 saves to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 2-1 victory over Vancouver on Monday night, keeping the Canucks winless on the road this season.
Sam Gagner‘s third-period goal was the game-winner for the Oilers (5-2-1), who have won four of five. Patrick O’Sullivan scored Edmonton’s other goal and assisted on Gagner’s midway through the period.
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“I don’t think we started too well in the game,” Khabibulin said. “But from the second period on I thought we took it to them and played pretty well.
“We know we aren’t going to score five or six goals every game so we need to win games like this too. In the playoffs the games are lower scoring so we might as well learn how to win those now.”
Kyle Wellwood looked to have scored with the extra attacker in the final second to tie the game, but a video review determined time had expired before the puck crossed the goal line.
“I heard the horn but it happened so quick I wasn’t sure,” said Khabulin, who had allowed last-minute goals in the Oilers‘ two losses to Calgary earlier in the season. “The way things have gone for us of late I was holding my breath until the referee made the final ruling. That was nice.”
Oilers coach Pat Quinn said his team was lucky the Canucks didn’t tie the game on their final rush.
“It was a six-on-three attack and our defense looked up and saw the bodies coming and just decided to back in and pray, it looked like,” Quinn said. “But for seconds it is in the net.”
Steve Bernier scored for the Canucks (3-5-0) who are 0-4 on the road.
“It was definitely not a good end result for us,” Canucks defenseman Christian Erhoff said. “It may have been our best road performance but unfortunately we couldn’t the puck in the net.
“It’s not good to lose divisional games like this and let teams get an early start on us.”
Vancouver opened the scoring after several giveaways in their own zone finally came back to haunt the Oilers. Denis Grebeshkov failed to clear the zone as he coughed up the puck to Wellwood and Bernier was on the doorstep to put in a rebound past Khabibulin.
The Canucks had an opportunity to go up by two with 5 minutes left in the first period as Mikael Samuelsson came out from behind the net, but Khabibulin noticed him just in time to come across and make a quick skate save.
Shots after the first were even at 11.
Edmonton tied the game 26 seconds into the second period as O’Sullivan corralled a hard pass from Grebeshkov at the side of the net and hammered the puck past Roberto Luongo.
Khabibulin made a big save on a hard slap shot on the power play by Wellwood to keep the game tied after two periods.
NOTES: Oilers F Gilbert Brule, who had two goals in the previous game against Minnesota, was a late scratch because of the flu. He was replaced by Ales Hemsky who played despite still suffering from the flu himself and sitting out the previous game. … Also out for Edmonton were D Sheldon Souray and D Steve Staios, both with concussions. … Edmonton F Ryan Stone left the game with a leg injury and did not return. … The Canucks sat F Darcy Hordichuk in favor of Tanner Glass. … Luongo made his eight consecutive start. … Wellwood’s first-period assist was his first point in eight games this season.