Goaltending was one of Edmonton many weak points last season. So far this year, it’s one of the reasons the Oilers are tied for top spot in the Western Conference.
Devan Dubnyk had a season-high 40 saves and defencemen Cam Barker and Andy Sutton each scored their first goals of the season, leading the Oilers past the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 on Friday night.
Ryan Smyth added a goal and two assists to help Edmonton win its fourth straight.
“I saw some shots, quite a few shots, but I maintained my focus and kept playing my game,” Dubnyk said. “The guys up front did an amazing job of blocking shots. It made it easier for me. Whenever the puck got past them to me, I was ready to make the save. It is noticeable how hard our defencemen play.”
All of the sudden the Oilers have a goaltending controversy. Dubnyk’s stellar game came one night after grizzled veteran Nikolai Khabibulin made 34 saves as the Oilers beat Washington 2-1. That was the Capitals’ first loss of the season.
Khabibulin, thought to be well past his prime heading into the season, leads the NHL with a 0,97 goals-against average and a .964 save percentage in six starts.
Dubnyk, meanwhile, is 10th in the league with a 1.98 GAA and seventh with a .938 save percentage in four starts.
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Calgary 3 St. Louis 1; Carolina 3 Chicago 0; and San Jose 4 Detroit 2.
At Denver, Ryan O’Reilly scored for Colorado, which leads the league with six road wins but fell to 0-3 at home despite having a season-high 41 shots. Edmonton managed 19 shots.
“It’s frustrating,” Colorado right wing David Jones said. “We played pretty well most of the game. We put pucks on this goalie. Unfortunately, we had a couple of breakdowns at our end.
“It was a tough one. We still can take some positives on this game. It was one of those games where a couple of bounces went their way. Their goalie stood on his head and played a great game.”
Both teams are off to good starts after finishing 29th (Colorado) and 30th (Edmonton) in the NHL last season. The Oilers are tied with Dallas atop the Western Conference with 14 points, while Colorado is in the mix with 12.
The game featured the first meeting between the top two picks in the NHL draft, Edmonton’s No. 1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, the second overall selection.
In a taut defensive game, Barker broke through for the game’s first score at 7:55 of the second period. With Edmonton on the power play, Barker took a pass from centre Sam Gagner and skated across the crease before backhanding a shot past Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
Sutton made it 2-0 lead with 5:40 left in the period when his shot from the high slot found its way into the net over Varlamov’s shoulder.
Colorado had several solid scoring chances but didn’t convert until O’Reilly, with the Avalanche on their third power play of the game, put in a goal at 5:42 of the third to make it 2-1.
But just 27 seconds later, Edmonton regained its two-goal lead when Smyth scored his third of the season.
“Leave it to King Muck to do that,” Oilers coach Tom Renney said of Smyth. “He was pretty much on his belly and swinging at it. It wasn’t pretty but it was a pretty effective rush. Colorado comes at you. They’ve got good speed. Certainly, we had to push back somehow and that line did it and got us a very, very big goal.”
Flames 3 Blues 1
At Calgary, Roman Horak had a goal and an assist and Miikka Kiprusoff made 28 saves as the Flames improved to 3-1-1 on their six-game homestand.
Hurricanes 3 Blackhawks 0
At Raleigh, N.C., Cam Ward made 30 saves in his first shutout of the season and Carolina snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Chicago.
Sharks 4 Red Wings 2
At Detroit, Joe Thornton scored twice and Antti Niemi made 30 saves to help San Jose win its fourth straight.