The Edmonton Oilers have found a simple way to win: Don't let the other team score.
The Oilers made it six straight wins, their longest streak since March 2002, by shutting out the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 at Staples Center on Thursday night. Edmonton improved to 8-2-2 and has allowed a League-low 16 non-shootout goals -- after 12 games last season, the Oilers had given up 40 and were 4-6-2.
Nikolai Khabibulin had to stop only 19 shots for his 45th career shutout -- partly because his teammates blocked 22 more.
"We didn't give them much tonight, we blocked a lot of shots. It always helps when the defenseman and forwards eliminate the second and third chances," Khabibulin said.
The Oilers have won six in a row and eight of their first 12 games for the first time since 1986 -- an amazing turnaround for a team coming off back-to-back last-place finishes in the overall standings.
"If you're going to do anything in this league, you need win streaks," coach Tom Renney said. "You have to put games together that eat up chunks of the season for you and that get you points. We know we need to do that. We know we have to be capable of that, at least on the road."
It was another frustrating night for the Kings, who've struggled to score all season.
"If you don't score any goals, you're not going to win games," defenseman Jack Johnson said. "It doesn't matter how well you play defensively or how well Quickie plays. If we can't score, we're not going to win."
Former King Ryan Smyth, booed all night long for requesting a trade back to Edmonton this summer, opened the scoring 11:26 into the second period when his centering pass was inadvertently deflected past goaltender Jonathan Quick by Kings defenseman Alec Martinez.
The trade has worked out well for the Oilers -- the goal was Smyth's team-leading sixth of the season.
It was also the first allowed by Quick at home this season. The second came at 17:38, when Lennart Petrell took the puck in front of the net after some hard work by Ben Eager and lifted a backhand through Quick for his first NHL goal. Quick wasn't happy that the goal was allowed to stand despite Anton Lander leaning on him heavily in the crease.
Defenseman Corey Potter made it a three-goal game at 1:06 of the third when he was able to find the puck at the top of the crease first after Sam Gagner passed up a chance to shoot and took the puck behind the net. His centering pass hit a skate and sat at the top of the crease before Potter whacked it in.
The Oilers clamped down the rest of the way, limiting the Kings' chances with a smothering defense.
"When everyone's making little sacrifices to win a hockey game, you get those results," Renney said.
Murray said the Kings just aren't getting the bounces right now.
"I look at the first goal here tonight -- it goes off Quick's head," he said. "The third goal is a pass that comes from our D and hits (Anze) Kopitar in the back of the foot and they go in and score. So I look at that as bad bounces, that go through a process over the course of the year, and that's what I chalk it up to right now."
With Pittsburgh coming to the Staples Center on Saturday, Kings captain Dustin Brown said his team must work harder.
"It's pretty simple. The first thing we've got to do is work," he said. "No matter what type of team you have, if you don't work you're not going to win. It's real disappointing, but at the same time with our work ethic and our system, we were off-page a lot tonight. But I think the main thing for this team is work. When we work, we do pretty well for ourselves."
1 - 0 EDM
2 - 0 EDM
3 - 0 EDM
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