EDMONTON – After earning a victory in their season opener with some pretty goals, the Edmonton Oilers showed they can also win ugly.
Shawn Horcoff had the game winner on a disputed goal and Nikolai Khabibulin made 26 saves as the Oilers scored three times on three straight shots to defeat the Florida Panthers 3-2 Sunday night.
Dustin Penner and Ryan Jones also scored for the new look Oilers, who are 2-0-0 to start the season.
Edmonton’s winning goal came seven minutes into the second period as rookie Taylor Hall sent a puck in front that looked to have been kicked in by Horcoff. The play survived a video review, earning Hall, the 2010 first overall draft pick, his first NHL point.
The Panthers couldn’t believe the goal was allowed.
“It looked like a kick to me,” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. “The interpretation of that rule, I don’t understand. I don’t know if you have to take a punter’s kick at it in order for it not to count. That’s what the league gets paid to do, make those decisions, and we have to live with them.”
Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun had a better angle on the play than anyone.
“It looked pretty clear to me,” he said. “I don’t know else a kicking motion could be described as.
“It didn’t surprise me that they counted it. They are trying to get the scoring up so they are counting everything, I guess.”
Oilers head coach Tom Renney credited Khabibulin for giving them the chance to win in a match they were clearly outplayed in at times.
“He was outstanding,” he said. “He was our best player. It’s good to know we have that. It’s probably not the last time we will see something like that. We’re certainly going to have to minimize nights like tonight if we want to be a playoff team.”
Khabibulin was playing just his second game since suffering a season-ending injury last November.
“I felt pretty good. I felt better today that I did in the first game,”he said. “I think games like that are going to happen whether you’re a young team or not. It’s just good that we’ve got the two points.”
Marty Reasoner had both goals for the Panthers (0-1-0), who were playing their first regular-season match.
“It was frustrating because I don’t think we got rewarded for the effort we put out,” DeBoer said. “I thought we played a good game. We stuck to our game plan and did what we wanted to do. You should get rewarded for that and we didn’t.”
Florida had a golden opportunity to open the scoring five minutes in as Chris Higgins went in on a breakaway, but Khabibulin stopped his first shot and his rebound attempt.
The Oilers were outplayed and outshot 11-3 in the first period and were saved by the play of Khabibulin.
“The way we played it was a good thing we had a goalie to bail us out,” Hall said.
Edmonton made its fourth shot count, however, just one and a half minutes into the second period as Penner tipped a hard shot from the point by Tom Gilbert past Vokoun.
The Oilers’ fifth shot came four minutes later, and again Edmonton made it count. Jones tipped in a Jim Vandermeer shot to make it 2-0.
Florida was finally rewarded for its hard work in the game less than a minute later as they made it 2-1 when Reasoner picked the corner high stick side on Khabibulin.
After Horcoff’s goal, Florida made it a one-goal game again with two minutes remaining in the second as Reasoner scored his second of the game, depositing a rebound from a David Booth shot into the net.
The Panthers led in shots 23-7 after 40 minutes and 28-13 overall.
The Panthers continue their Western Canada road swing in Vancouver on Monday. The Oilers are off until Thursday when they visit Minnesota.
Notes: It was the only meeting between the two teams this season.…The Panthers were the only team in the NHL that had yet to play a regular season game going into Sunday night.…Oiler Gilbert Brule was back in the lineup after leaving early with an injury in Edmonton’s 4-0 home-opener win against Calgary.…Penner’s second period goal was his 200th career NHL point.…Tough guy Darcy Hordichuk playedhis first game with the Panthers after being acquired in a trade with Vancouver earlier in the week.