EDMONTON – Nikolai Khabibulin did little to endear himself to Edmonton Oilers fans in his first official start for the team.
The 36-year-old free agent acquisition coughed up a gift goal to David Moss with 48.7 seconds left as the Calgary Flames spoiled archrival Edmonton’s home opener, defeating the Oilers 4-3 on Saturday. Khabibulin went out to corral a puck in the final minute but lost control of it, allowing Moss to score his second of the game.
“I was just trying to put some pressure on him to try and force a turnover,” Moss said. “He fanned on it and I was lucky to get a stick on it. I’ve never scored a goal like that. Most of my goals are not highlight reel worthy.”
Khabibulin was dismayed to commit the gaffe after Edmonton had fought back to tie up the game.
“It doesn’t feel very good right now,” he said. “It feels like I lost at least a point for my team. I can’t get it back right now. I still can’t believe what just happened. There’s no excuse.”
Oilers head coach Pat Quinn could hardly believe what happened either.
“That’s a hard way to lose a hockey game,” he said. “I guess those things happen. I certainly don’t like them or the fact that we lost. I didn’t like any one of the goals tonight. Did we do some good things out there tonight? Sure. But we lost the hockey game.”
Curtis Glencross and Nigel Dawes also scored for the Flames who improved to 2-0-0 on the season. The last time the Flames won two straight to start a season was 2001-02.
“It was a back and forth game,” said veteran Calgary forward Craig Conroy. “They got a big break to tie it up in the third and then we got an even bigger one to win it. So I guess that kind of evened out. We did a lot of good things and we made some mistakes too. But I felt we got better as the game went on.”
Dustin Penner, Gilbert Brule and Sam Gagner replied for the Oilers (0-1-0) who were making their 2009-2010 debut.
Calgary struck quickly, scoring on the first shot of the game. Dustin Boyd made a nice no-look backhand feed from behind the net to Glencross, who roofed a shot over Khabibulin.
Edmonton tied the game six minutes into the opening period as Penner picked up a rebound on a hard Patrick O’Sullivan shot and hammered it past Calgary starter Miikka Kiprusoff.
The Flames regained the advantage on the power play as Moss redirected a shot that was going wide through Khabibulin’s legs.
Edmonton outshot Calgary 14-6 in the first period.
Calgary took a two-goal lead on another power play with seven minutes to play in the second as Dawes hammered a point shot glove side for a 3-1 lead.
The Oilers crawled back to within one with two minutes left in the second period. Brule got everything behind a slapshot from the top of the circle to beat Kiprusoff stick-side.
Edmonton dictated the bulk of the play for most of the third and finally were rewarded for it with seven minutes to play. A Calgary clearing attempt took a bad hop of the boards and came straight out to Gagner in front of the net, who made the most of is fourth-line playing time by scoring the tying goal.