Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oilers blast Leafs 5-0

The Edmonton Oilers finished off a rare goaltender hat trick on Thursday night when they won their third straight road game using three different goalies.

Nikolai Khabibulin, playing his first game in 15 days after pulling his groin, made 33 saves to blank the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0 on Thursday at the Air Canada Centre. 

Martin Gerber recorded a 4-1 win over the Senators in Ottawa on Monday night, while Devan Dubnyk earned a 4-3 overtime victory over the Canadiens in Montreal on Wednesday.

It was the first time in 25 years the Oilers had pulled off this road feat. On Feb. 18, 1985, Grant Fuhr beat the Buffalo Sabres. A night later, Andy Moog won in Toronto. Then Mike Zanier, who only played three Oilers games, knocked off the Flames in Calgary on March 5. 

There were actually five home games between the Moog victory and Zanier’s effort, but it was still three straight road wins with different masked men.

It’s not as rare for other teams. In February 2009, the Leafs actually did it.

Vesa Toskala, now trying to find work in Europe, won on Long Island, Curtis Joseph, now retired, won in Ottawa. And Gerber, who had been picked up on waivers by the Leafs, did it in Washington.

Goaltending, they say, is 75 per cent of the game unless you don’t have any. Then it’s 100 per cent.

On Thursday, the Oilers (9-12-40 got a terrific effort from Khabibulin, who picked up his second shutout of the season — the first was 4-0 in the season-opener against the Flames

The Leafs, meanwhile, got a rare mediocre piece of work from starter Jonas Gustavsson. He was forced out 26 minutes into the game after giving up two goals in six shots.

The net result was the Oilers best road trip in a calendar year.

Taylor Hall had his first two-goal NHL game to up his scoring production to eight goals on the season, while buddy Jordan Eberle, with his first goal in 17 games, also scored. Sam Gagner and Ryan Jones also tallied for the Oilers. All five goals were scored at even-strength.

Eberle scored on the Oilers second shot on Gustavsson — a harmless shot that caught the Swede on his knees. The puck bounced off his arm and into the net. 

Hall ripped a backhand past the goalie nicknamed “Monster” as he roared around Francois Beauchemin early in the second period as coach Ron Wilson went to his reliever J.S. Giguere, who couldn’t find the handle on a shot by Magnus Paajarvi with three seconds left in the second.

Gagner beat him to the bouncing puck to jam it home and that was effectively it. Hall and Jones scored on Giguere in the third period as the lowly Leafs (8-12-4) were shut out for their sixth time this season.
Khabibulin’s best save came late in the second period when he dove across the crease to rob Leafs rookie forward Nazem Kadri on a wraparound. He banged his stick in disgust when Khabibulin scrambled to corral the loose puck.

With Oilers right-winger Ales Hemsky sitting out with a pulled groin for the fourth time in the last five games, Zack Stortini got back into the lineup. Head coach Tom Renney also got the hook out for winger J.F. Jacques, inserting Steve MacIntyre. 

That meant Leafs slugger Colton Orr was tag-teamed. He wound up fighting the much bigger MacIntyre midway through the first period, and MacIntyre easily won the brief tussle as Orr fell to the ice.
Hemsky didn’t want to push it two nights in succession.

“(The groin) didn’t feel right (the game against the Canadiens). I don’t want to risk tearing it and then I would be out a long time,” said Hemsky.

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