Rested and refreshed, Nikolai Khabibulin brought his A game to the Bell Centre on a night when his Edmonton Oilers teammates showed up with less than their best.
Khabibulin made 28 saves and Ryan Jones scored a short-handed goal in the second period to send Edmonton to a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
Tom Gilbert scored at 16:28 of the third to put the Oilers up 2-0. Ryan Smyth scored into an empty net with 42.4 seconds remaining.
“It’s never easy to come to this building and play here because the fans are always involved and they do have a fast team,” said Khabibulin, who maintained both his incredible 0.98 goals-against-average and .963 save percentage.
“It took me a little bit to get used to the speed again, but luckily they didn’t score in the first period and then I think we got used to it.”
Khabibulin, who has allowed nine goals in nine games, came within 3:10 of posting his third shutout of the season. He has yet to lose in regulation, improving to 7-0-2.
“That’s one of the poorer performances we’ve had in front of him,” coach Tom Renney said. “I think there’s maybe been one other where we weren’t as good as we needed to be for 60 minutes, and you know what, that’s not bad. We kind of stole one here, but you find ways to win and he certainly is giving us lots of confidence. We just have to make sure that we pay that back.”
Montreal’s Max Pacioretty scored 22 seconds after Gilbert to make it 2-1.
Elsewhere in the NHL, it was: Florida 5 Toronto 1; Buffalo 6 Winnipeg 5 (OT); Minnesota 3 Calgary 0; Dallas 5 Washington 2; New Jersey 3 Carolina 2; Detroit 5 Colorado 2; St. Louis 3 Chicago 0; Los Angeles 4 Nashville 3.
At Monreal, Carey Price stopped 11 shots for the Canadiens, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak.
“It seemed like a similar game plan and they got a couple of bounces,” Pacioretty said.
Edmonton bounced back from Saturday’s 4-2 loss at Phoenix.
Ales Hemsky and Cam Barker both returned to the Oilers’ lineup. Hemsky missed 11 games with a right shoulder injury. Barker, who also had an injured shoulder, missed three games.
It was Khabibulin’s return that led the way for Edmonton, though. Rested in favour of backup Devan Dubnyk on Saturday, the 38-year-old goalie turned aside four shots in the first, 13 in the second, and 11 in the third.
Montreal’s Michael Cammalleri put a drive off the left post as Khabibulin scrambled to recover his stick during a power play in the first.
Jones took advantage of Tomas Plekanec’s turnover and drove in to beat Price for an unassisted goal 4:38 into the second.
Gilbert made it a two-goal lead late in the third when his shot struck Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges on its way past Price.
Pacioretty brought the sold-out crowd back to life with his sixth goal 22 seconds later.
“You’re disappointed with the score but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort or lack of execution,” Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. “We just didn’t finish, he made some good saves and we’ll look at the tape and find a couple of errors that we need to be better and regroup for Thursday’s game.”
Sabres 6, Jets 5 (OT)
At Buffalo, N.Y., Thomas Vanek scored a power-play goal 4:35 into overtime, tipping in Jason Pominville’s shot, in the Sabres’ victory over Winnipeg.
Panthers 5, Maple Leafs 1
At Toronto, Florida took advantage of shaky goalie Jonas Gustavsson and routed the Maple Leafs.
Phil Kessel scored Toronto’s lone goal.
Wild 3, Flames 0
At Calgary, Niklas Backstrom stopped all 41 shots he faced to lead the Minnesota Wild over the Flames.
Blues 3, Blackhawks 0
At St. Louis, Jaroslav Halak shrugged off his shaky start to the season, making 29 saves as the Blues won coach Ken Hitchcock’s debut against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Red Wings 5, Avalanche 2
At Detroit, Johan Franzen scored three goals, and the Red Wings rolled over Colorado.
Stars 5, Capitals 2
At Washington, Michael Ryder scored twice, Adam Burish had the tiebreaking goal early in the third period, and Dallas beat Washington to snap the Capitals’ six-game home winning streak.
Devils 3, Hurricanes 2
At Newwark, N.J., rookie centre Adam Henrique scored with 3:19 left to lift New Jersey over Carolina. The Devils earned their third straight win, and the Hurricanes dropped their third straight.
Kings 4, Predators 3
At Los Angeles, Mike Richards scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period as the Kings outlasted the Nashville Predators.