EDMONTON – After a shaky start to the season, the Bulin Wall is standing tall in Edmonton.
Nikolai Khabibulin made 39 saves as the Edmonton Oilers held on for a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. Sam Gagner scored the third period winner for the Oilers (5-2-1), who have won four of their last five games. Patrick O’Sullivan scored Edmonton’s other goal and assisted on Gagner’s winner.
“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.”
Some strong goaltending by Khabibulin early in the third kept Edmonton in it at 1-1 and they took advantage midway through the period as Gagner chipped a rebound over a sprawled Roberto Luongo during a scramble in front of the Vancouver net.
There was some drama at the end as Ales Hemsky was hauled down going for an empty-netter and six Vancouver attackers crossed into the Edmonton zone against just three defenders.
Kyle Wellwood seemed to score with the extra attacker in the final second, but a video review determined that 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 referee made the final ruling. That was nice.”
Oilers head 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 defence 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 had the lone goal for the Canucks (3-5-0) who have yet to capture a win on the road in four attempts this season.
“It was definitely not a good end result for us,” said Canucks defenceman Christian Erhoff. “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 five minutes left as Mikael Samuelsson snuck out form behind the net, but Khabibulin noticed him just in time to come across and make a quick skate save.
Edmonton tied the game 1-1 just 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 Luongo.
Vancouver had the best chance in the remainder of the second period, but Khabibulin made a save on a hard power-play slapshot by Wellwood to keep the game tied after 40 minutes.
The Canucks conclude a short two-game trip in Chicago on Wednesday. Edmonton wraps up a three-game homestand against Columbus on Thursday.
Notes: Oiler forward Gilbert Brule, who had two goals in Edmonton’s previous game against Minnesota, was a late scratch, suffering from the flu. He was replaced by Ales Hemsky who played despite still suffering from the flu himself and sitting out the previous game. The Oilers cancelled their practice on Tuesday to try and combat the bug going through the rooma Also out for Edmonton were defencemen Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios, both with concussions. Marc-Antoine Pouliot is out 8-10 weeks following hernia surgery and Fernando Pisani is still out with a back injury, but has resumed skating. a Edmonton forward Ryan Stone left the game with a leg injury and did not returna Still missing from the Vancouver lineup due to injuries were Daniel Sedin, Sami Salo, Mathieu Schneider and Pavol Demitra. a The Canucks sat forward Darcy Hordichuk in favour of Tanner Glass. a Luongo made his eighth consecutive start. a Wellwood’s first period assist was his first point in eight games this season.