EDMONTON – Nikolai Khabibulin’s losing streak has reached a dirty dozen.
The veteran Edmonton Oilers netminder lost his 12th consecutive start as Ryan Smyth scored twice to lead the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-1 win Wednesday night.
Khabibulin, 38, can’t remember a stretch as sorry as the one he’s currently enduring.
“I don’t think I’ve ever lost that many in a row,”Khabibulin said.“It’s been strange. There were a few games that we should have won and didn’t.
“I’m trying not to get frustrated. Obviously I am not happy about it. You just have to keep trying and trying.”
Edmonton coach Tom Renney was behind the bench despite the death of his father Tuesday. He said Khabibulin and his teammates can’t allow frustration to sink in.
“He wants to get off the (losing streak) and I’ll continue to give him the opportunity to do so,”Renney said.“As with our team, we can’t allow frustration to become the enemy here because it can quite quickly take the wind out of your sails and hurt an awful lot of good work.
“As much as the standings suggest otherwise we have done a lot of good things here and will continue to do so. Like anybody else, he has to stand tall through all of this and find a way to get through it.”
Magnus Paajarvi had the lone goal for the Oilers (15-27-8), who lost their second straight and for the 16th time in 19 games.
Jack Johnson had a goal and two assists for the Kings (28-22-2), who completed the second contest of a lengthy 10-game road trip. Los Angeles improved to 4-0-1 in its last five outings.
The difference in the game was primarily on special teams as both of Smyth’s goals came via deflections on the power play.
“He (Smyth) does a great job on the power play,”said Kings defenceman Drew Doughty.“Both of those goals, he didn’t let the goalie see them.
“Whether he tipped them or not, it doesn’t really matter, the goals were scored mostly because of him. If the goalie is able to see that puck it’s never going to go in.”
Added Smyth:“It’s nice to contribute on the power play. Our power play has been lacking of late. It’s something that can win or lose you hockey games and tonight we were able to capitalize on two of them. I didn’t touch the second one. I don’t even think I got the first one, I just try to cause them.”
The Oilers controlled the bulk of the play for most of the scoreless first period, outshooting the Kings 12-5. But it was the visitors who had the best chance with five minutes left as Anze Kopitar had Khabibulin down and out but hit defender Tom Gilbert with his shot before the net was knocked off its moorings.
Edmonton came close a couple times on the power play late in the first but Kurtis Foster’s slapshot hit the post. Then a loose puck that had fallen behind goaltender Jonathan Quick was cleared to safety before Linus Omark could get to it.
The Oilers opened the scoring three minutes into the second as Sam Gagner made a beautiful move to spin past Los Angeles’s Trevor Lewis then found Paajarvi at the side of the net for the goal.
Los Angeles countered 24 seconds later on the power play as Smyth tipped Doughty’s shot past Khabibulin for his 20th goal of the season. The Kings went ahead 2-1 midway through the second on another power play as Smyth again deflected Doughty’s point shot.
Los Angeles had a chance to go ahead by two goals four minutes into the third when Jarret Stoll was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down by Ladislav Smid. But Stoll was unable to slip the puck between Khabibulin’s pads.
But the Kings went ahead 3-1 with five minutes remaining in the third as Johnson’s shot from the point somehow found its way into the Oilers’ net.
Both teams return to the ice Friday as the Kings play in Calgary while the Oilers begin a three-game trip in St. Louis.
NOTES—It was the third game of the season between the two teams. The Kings won both previous encounters in Los Angeles . . . The Kings came into the game with a 6-0-4 record against the Oilers since losing 5-4 in regulation Feb. 28, 2008 . . . Oilers forward Ales Hemskyreturned to the lineup after missing four games and the all-star competition with a concussion. To make room on the roster, Edmonton sent Zack Stortini to Oklahoma City. Stortini cleared waivers Wednesday . . . Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle is expected to be back in the lineup Friday. Eberle has been out since Jan. 1 with a sprained ankle and also missed out on an all-star invite . . . Los Angeles was without Scott Parse (hip) while Marco Sturm (knee) is day-to-day . . . The Kings are on the road became their home arena is will stage both the Grammy Awards and the NBA all-star game.