March 31, 2012
Kings down lacklustre Oilers
By Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - It is too late for Nikolai Khabibulin to stop the bleeding.
No matter what happens between now and the merciful end of a lost season season, those red stains on his statistics are never going away.
But a token win before he shuts it down for the summer would be nice.
Probably won’t happen, though. With one win in his last 17 starts, and playing behind a team that is clearly easing up at the finish line, the Russian netminder is running out of time.
If there is a poster child for an Oilers season that began with such great promise and ended with such bitter results, he’s it.
The same guy who went 7-0-2 in his first nine starts and posted some of the best numbers in the NHL has been sinking faster than the Minnesota Wild — 1-12-4 in his last 17.
With just one win since a Dec. 22 victory over Minnesota, Khabibulin was hoping for a little good fortune Friday night at Rexall Place. Unfortunately, he was playing behind a team that had six shots through 35 minutes and wound up on the predictable end of a 4-1 loss.
It started on the wrong foot in a hurry.
Los Angeles, the second-lowest scoring team in the NHL — above only the high-flying Wild — needed all of one shot and 52 seconds to score. Anze Kopitar tipped a shot through Khabibulin’s five hole.
Edmonton continued with the irony theme by scoring on Jonathan Quick, perhaps the best netminder in the league, on their first shot. Jordan Eberle’s 33rd of the season made it 1-1 at 1:34.
The Oilers were flustered in their own end much of the night, managing just one more shot in the final 18:26 of the opening period. Two shots in 20 minutes? Strange, considering they had two power plays, but the second one wound up with a puck in Edmonton’s net when Jeff Petry bobbled a puck at the L.A. blue line and Mke Richards scored on the ensuing breakaway.
Edmonton continued going nowhere in the second period. They were held to four shots for most of the period until a late flurry lifted them to eight.
It didn’t help matters that they were down two defenceman as Ladislav Smid left the game with a sore neck after being pounded into the end boards by Dustin Brown and Jeff Petry left with facial injuries after being hit by a Kopitar clearing attempt.
Other than that it was a pretty good period. The Oilers only gave up one more goal, Drew Doughty on the power play, to trail 3-1 after 40 minutes.
King, originally credited with the first LA goal, gets to keep this one, putting a rebound past Khabibulin to make it 4-1 eight minutes into the third.
The Kings solidified their place in the top eight with the victory, but there is still no room to breathe between here and the finish line.
“You can’t watch (the standings) because a lot of things are happening that are out of your hands right now,” said former Oiler Matt Greene. “You just have to keep pace. It’s interesting to say the least, but that’s the way it is with all these three-point games now. That’s what makes it exciting toward the end of the year.”
LATE HITS: Eric Belanger was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. He has four goals and is minus 11 for 74 games this season … With Petry and Smid a concern for Sunday in Anaheim and Theo Peckham out with a concussion, Cam Barker might be inching closer to his first start in 15 games.