The No. 1 pick in the Entry Draft this past June scored midway through the second period and Nikolai Khabibulin continued his brilliant early-season play with 19 saves as the Edmonton Oilers blanked the New York Rangers 2-0 on Saturday night at Rexall Place.
"All I wanted to do was come in and play the best I could," said Nugent-Hopkins, who has seven points in seven games. "I'm happy with the way it's going. It's been awesome so far."
Nugent-Hopkins took a drop pass from Taylor Hall, the top pick in the 2010 Draft, and zipped a wrister past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's blocker, off the far post and into the net at 10:09 to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead.
"I just settled it down a little bit, took a shot and beat him to the blocker side," Nugent-Hopkins said. "It was a great pass by Hall."
It was his fifth goal in seven games; the Oilers have two more games to decide whether to keep the 18-year-old center or return him to juniors.
"I don't really have any indication whether I'm going (back to juniors) or if I'm going to staying," he said. "I'm just going to keep taking it day-by-day and leave it at that."
Former Rangers defenseman Corey Potter scored the other goal 4:03 into the third period, taking a pass from Nugent-Hopkins at the right point and blowing a power-play slapper past Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers goaltender left the ice and headed to the locker room midway through the third period. He was replaced by Martin Biron, seeing his first action of the season, and said after the game that his departure was caused by a problem with his new skates.
"I couldn't move the way I wanted to move," he said after the game. "There was too much pressure on my left foot. I need to be able to focus on the puck -- but especially in the third (period), I was just thinking about the pain. I told Marty, 'It's better if you go out there.'"
Lundqvist said he expected to have the problem fixed before the Rangers visit Winnipeg on Monday night.
Khabibulin, who has allowed just three goals in his four starts, wasn't tested often in his 44th career shutout. His best stop came early in the game when he scrambled back to deny Ruslan Fedotenko after a giveaway.
"At the start, I didn't get too many shots, so I was a little bit cold," Khabibulin said. "I wasn't really comfortable, but as the game went on I felt better and better. The guys blocked a lot of shots, and I saw the majority of the shots."
New York coach John Tortorella wasn't happy with his team's performance.
"We (stunk) from head to toe and we didn't move past it," said Tortorella, who refused to answer questions from the media.
The game was a bit of revenge for the Oilers and their coach, Tom Renney, who preceded Tortorella behind the Rangers' bench. In the teams' only meeting last season, the Rangers' won 8-2 behind a hat trick by Marian Gaborik. This time, Khabibulin stopped all three of Gaborik's shots and held the Rangers scoreless for the first time this season.
"It was good to beat 'em," Renney said.
New York (2-2-2) completes a season-opening seven-game road trip against the Jets before playing its home opener at the remodeled Madison Square Garden on Thursday against Toronto.
"We have one more to go before we come back to New York," Lundqvist said. "I'll do whatever it takes to get the final two points on the road."
1 - 0 EDM