A major gaffe by Nikolai Khabibulin in his debut with the Edmonton Oilers wasted an impressive rally.
The veteran goaltender will try help the Oilers avoid opening a season with consecutive losses for the first time in 11 years Tuesday night when they host the Dallas Stars.
The Oilers signed Khabibulin to a four-year $15 million contract on the first day of free agency this summer to replace Dwayne Roloson, who joined the New York Islanders.
The four-time All-Star, who spent the last four seasons with Chicago, was expected to solidify Edmonton’s issues in net, but his debut didn’t go according to plan and the Oilers fell 4-3 to Northwest Division rival Calgary on Saturday.
Khabibulin gave up the winning goal with 48.7 seconds left when he ventured out to play the puck, only to lose control as the Flames’ David Moss poke-checked it into the open net. The error came 6:10 after Sam Gagner capitalized on a poor clearance by Calgary to tie the score at 3-all and complete a two-goal comeback.
“That’s a hard way to lose a hockey game,” coach Pat Quinn said after dropping his debut with the Oilers. “I guess those things happen. I certainly don’t like them or the fact that we lost. I didn’t like any one of the goals. Did we do some good things out there? Sure. But we lost the hockey game.”
Khabibulin is 5-2-0 with a 2.29 goals-against average in his last seven games against Dallas.
The Stars are also looking to rebound from a season-opening defeat, 3-2 in a shootout to Nashville on Saturday. They dropped their first two games last season en route to missing the playoffs for the third time since relocating from Minnesota in 1993.
“You do have to take the positives out of it,” center Mike Ribeiro said. “We were down 2-0 but didn’t put our heads down. We kept pushing and pushing.”
James Neal will be looking to build on an impressive season debut, as he scored twice before missing his shootout attempt. The left wing had 24 goals as a rookie last season.
The Stars may get a lift if Jere Lehtinen is able to play after hip and groin injuries kept him out of the season opener. The veteran right wing, a three-time winner of the Frank J. Selke Award as the NHL’s top defensive forward, is entering his 14th season with Dallas, but injuries have limited him to 48 games in each of the last two.
Lehtinen had eight goals and 16 assists in 2008-09. He’s posted five goals and two assists in his last eight meetings with the Oilers.
While Lehtinen could play, Mike Modano may not be in the lineup. The center has soreness and bruising in his ribs and considers himself “doubtful” for Tuesday night.
After facing Edmonton, the Stars visit Calgary on Friday before concluding a three-game road stretch Sunday against Vancouver.
Edmonton and Dallas split last season’s series as both clubs won twice at home.