The NHL's worst team a year ago ended the Washington Capitals' quest to make history.
The Edmonton Oilers, 30th in the overall standings last season, got power-play goals by Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall, as well 34 saves by Nikolai Khabibulin as they beat Washington 2-1 on Thursday, handing the Caps their first loss in eight games this season.
"The three areas where we had difficulty last year won us the game tonight," Oilers coach Tom Renney said of his team's goaltending, power play and penalty-killing. The Oilers struggled in all three areas last season -- which included a 5-0 loss in Washington in the teams' only meeting in 2010-11.
This time, the power play produced both goals, the penalty-killers were flawless and Khabibulin continued his early-season brilliance. The 38-year-old is 4-0-2 and has allowed just six goals in six games.
"It was a good test," Khabibulin said after the Oilers improved to 5-2-2 after their third consecutive win. "We really wanted to see where we're at. So it feels good to beat one of the best teams in the League."
Washington was just the 10th team in NHL history to start a season with seven straight wins -- and they looked like they were on the way to No. 8 when Karl Alzner kept the puck in at the point, then wound up and blew a shot past Khabibulin at 5:36.
Edmonton nearly tied it later in the period when Cam Barker beat Tomas Vokoun but drilled the post. The Oilers did get even at 18:15 on a nice three-way passing play during a 4-on-3 power play when Eberle slid a quick pass through the crease to Hall, who beat Vokoun for his third of the season.
"Eberle made a perfect pass to me back door and I couldn't really miss it," Hall said.
Eberle put the Oilers ahead to stay at 12:44 of the second period when Eberle took the rebound of Corey Potter's slapper from the point and fired it into an open net.
The Oilers cashed in on two of their eight power plays in the first 40 minutes.
"For whatever reason we took penalties not only in our zone but also in the offensive zone," said Vokoun, who lost for the first time in seven games with Washington. "Penalties are tough to kill in this League. We had a chance to get a point but they had a bit more puck luck than us.
"You can't take that many penalties, no matter who you are playing. It cost us the game in the end."
After the Oilers took the lead, Khabibulin made sure they kept it.
With four minutes left in the middle period, he denied Alex Ovechkin with a kick save after Ovi picked off a pass in the Edmonton zone. He was sharp early in the third, making kick saves on Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and robbing Dennis Wideman on a slap shot. Wideman nearly tied it with four minutes left, but his power-play slapper hit the post, and Ovechkin hit the crossbar with 15 seconds to play.
"I thought we played pretty good in the third period and came at them," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Once that first five minutes went by and we didn't get one with the pressure we had on them and on the first power play in the third when (Khabibulin) made that stop on Dennis Wideman, I thought it's going to be hard to score on this guy tonight. We threw everything we could at him."
Eberle says the Oilers still have plenty of room for improvement.
"I didn't think it was our best," he said. "We turned over a lot of pucks, kind of made it a track meet and I think that's what they wanted. They're such a fast transition team."
It was the ninth NHL game for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 pick in last June's NHL Draft. If he plays a 10th, he will remain with Edmonton for the remainder of the season.
But that's an issue for tomorrow. For now, he was happy to share in the victory.
"It was awesome," he said. "They were undefeated coming into tonight so to get a win against a good team tonight was great. We really battled hard tonight. Khabibulin, some of the saves he made for us were ridiculous."
Material from team media was used in this report
|Theo Peckham Cross checking against Matt Hendricks|
|Anton Lander Hooking against Matt Hendricks|
|Matt Hendricks Diving against Anton Lander|
|Alexander Semin Hooking against Taylor Hall|
|Ryan Smyth Slashing against Marcus Johansson|
|John Carlson Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Roman Hamrlik Hooking against Shawn Horcoff|
|Jeff Schultz Hooking against Magnus Paajarvi|
|Troy Brouwer Hooking against Tom Gilbert|
|Marcus Johansson Closing hand on puck|
|Mathieu Perreault Slashing against Ryan Smyth|
|Karl Alzner Holding the stick against Jordan Eberle|
|Ladislav Smid Roughing against Marcus Johansson|
|Anton Lander Tripping against Troy Brouwer|
|Andy Sutton Roughing against Matt Hendricks|