Khudobin Stops 31, Wild Beat Oilers 4-1
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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Anton Khudobin has filled in just fine for the Minnesota Wild.
He stopped 31 shots and Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brent Burns each had a goal and an assist to help the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 Tuesday night.
“I have a lot of confidence right now,” Khudobin said. “It’s a really good feeling to win games like that. The guys are playing very well in front of me and helping me a lot. I don’t really care that much about the shutout. The W is better for me.”
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Matt Cullen and Andrew Brunette also scored for the Wild, who have won two after a three-game losing streak. Minnesota has six wins in its last nine games.
Helping to keep that rolling has been Khudobin, who was called up from Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Houston due to hip injuries to both Jose Theodore and Niklas Backstrom.
“It’s huge to start off a road trip with a win like this,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. “We took too many penalties. But the points are what matters.”
Magnus Paajarvi scored a power-play goal for the Oilers who have lost three in a row and 12 of their last 14.
Nikolai Khabibulin started in goal for Edmonton while Devan Dubnyk remained in the dressing room with an illness. Khabibulin allowed two goals on four shots before the game was three and a half minutes old.
Oilers coach Tom Renney is concerned that his young team’s confidence may falter.
“We’re in 15th place in the Western Conference and second last in the league so there is a danger of that, no question,” he said. “But as a coaching staff and an organization we have to continue to grow these people through tough experiences. We’re going to coach our butts off to help these guys win, and win properly. Until we get that right we are going to have nights like these.”
The Wild opened the scoring just 1:39 in as Eric Nystrom hit a streaking Cullen on his way to the net, and Cullen backhanded his own rebound past Khabibulin.
Burns made it 2-0 less than two minutes later as his point shot went through a sea of legs and into the Edmonton net. The defenseman is tied with Cal Clutterbuck for the team lead in scoring with 13 goals.
The Oilers’ anemic power play had a chance to get them back into the game with a long two-man advantage midway through the second period but only mustered one shot.
Ales Hemsky, Edmonton’s lone representative in the all-star game, left with a concussion and did not return.
Minnesota went up 3-0 midway through the third when Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert lost the puck to Nystrom behind the Oiler net. Nystrom got the puck out front to Bouchard, who undressed Khabibulin with a nice move for just his third of the season.
Two minutes later, Brunette kicked a rebound to his stick and scored on the power play for his 12th goal of the year.
The Oilers finally scored with 3:46 to play as Paajarvi took a feed in the slot and beat the Khudobin with a shot to the top corner.
The Oilers hadn’t scored a power-play goal in their previous 11 games, going 0-for-44.
“We’ve got to start winning,” Khabibulin said. “And to start winning, we have to stop doing some of the things we’re doing and start to do the right things for the whole game. We’ve got to work together. The worst thing you can do is point fingers at each other. You have to support each other and trust each other.”
The longest streak without a power play goal this season was the New York Islanders, who went 12 games. Those streaks are the longest since New Jersey went 13 games without a power-play goal in the 2002-2003 season.
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Notes: It was the third of six meetings between the two teams. Minnesota won the first two, both 4-2… The Oilers are now officially without D Ryan Whitney for the remainder of the season after he underwent surgery on his right ankle in Charlotte, N.C. on Monday… Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff hopes to be back with the team this week after being out with a knee injury since Dec. 7… Khudobin got the start with the Wild’s two regular netminders, Niklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore on the mend, both bothered by hip injuries. Both made the Western trip, however, with Backstrom serving as backup in Edmonton and Theodore pronouncing himself at about 85 percent ready to go.
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