CHICAGO (AP) - Nikolai Khabibulin finally displayed the skills that earned him a big contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Khabibulin, who signed a four-year, $27 million deal this past summer, made 26 saves - including several tough ones - to lead Chicago to a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
The Blackhawks took a 3-0 lead in the first period on just five shots against Jussi Markkanen. Mark Bell scored two goals, two minutes apart, late in the period. Then Khabibulin, who helped lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup title, took charge. He finished with 26 saves as Chicago was outshot 27-19.
Fernando Pisani converted a breakaway for Edmonton's only goal.
``I don't think it was my best game, but we got the two points and that's what matters,'' Khabibulin said. ``I think when the guys get to know each other a little more, it will help. I see progress.
``Tonight, I got to see the puck,'' he added. ``When I didn't see it, guys were blocking it. If there were any rebounds, they were clearing them.''
Khabibulin got off to a disappointing start in Chicago, posting a 5-10 record, a 3.71 goals-against average and a .861 save percentage entering Sunday's game. He was in top form against Edmonton.
``We knew we weren't the best in the first couple periods, but Khabby was there and great for us,'' Bell said.
Bell recorded his first two-goal game this season and third of his career. With Markkanen pulled for an extra attacker in the final minute of regulation, Bell missed two chances in a bid for his first NHL hat trick.
He hit the post of an empty net with one shot. He fired another attempt from the Chicago zone wide.
``The puck was kind of following me around,'' Bell said. ``But I'm laughing at myself right now. Friends are going to be calling be because this game was on TV in Canada.
``I'm not going to look at the video (of the missed chances), only the first two goals.''
Duncan Keith had a goal and an assist for Chicago, which converted its first two shots against Markkanen.
Markkanen, making his 14th straight start, finished with 16 saves.
``I guess I wasn't ready to play in the first period,'' Markkanen said. ``I felt pretty good and normal, but I was just a bit late on the first one. The second one, I kind of had no patience and left the post early. The third one, I didn't see it. I think it went under my arm.
``I think we beat them in every other category of the game than goaltending,'' Markkanen added. ``He (Khabibulin) was good and I had one bad period.''
The Oilers killed all three Chicago penalties and have erased 17 straight opposing advantages. The Blackhawks' penalty killers were 8-for-8.
The Blackhawks led 3-0 after the first period, despite being outshot 11-5.
Keith opened the scoring at 10:15 on Chicago's first shot. After skating from his own zone, Keith pulled up just inside the Edmonton blue line and fooled Markkanen with a wrist shot that bounced in off his right pad.
With 6:47 left, Bell made it 2-0 on the Blackhawks' second shot.
Bell broke in alone off left wing and was hooked by Edmonton's Steve Staios. As he belly-flopped to the ice, Bell tucked a shot past Markkanen's right skate.
Bell extended Chicago's lead to 3-0 just two minutes later. His wrist shot from the right circle handcuffed Markkanen and sailed past his right shoulder.
Pisani broke in alone and cut it to 3-1 at 7:22 of the second. He picked up a loose puck, got by the Chicago defense, and slid a backhanded shot between Khabibulin's pads.
Khabibulin made several tough saves in that period, including a quick glove save on Shawn Horcoff's 15-foot wrist shot with 6:20 to go. He again robbed Horcoff midway through the third period when the forward fired an open shot from the edge of the crease.
``We had a lot of point-blank shots, but he (Khabibulin) played well,'' Horcoff said. ``You have to give him credit.''
Notes: Bell's two-goal game was his first this season and third of his career. ... Chicago D Jassen Cullimore returned after missing three games with the flu. Blackhawks D Todd Simpson was a healthy scratch. ... Edmonton D Alexei Semenov and RW Jani Rita were healthy scratches. ... C Krys Kolanos, claimed by the Oilers on waivers from Phoenix on Friday, wasn't in the Edmonton lineup.