The Chicago Blackhawks ruined Nikolai Khabibulin's homecoming.
Making his first start against his former team since leaving via free agency in July, Khabibulin played well and stopped 34 of 38 shots, but his Edmonton Oilers dropped a 4-3 decision at the United Center on Wednesday night.
''It was weird to be on the other side. They actually have become a pretty good team,'' said Khabibulin, who played with Chicago from 2005-09. ''They want to put a lot of pucks on the net ... and look for rebounds. To beat them, we have to have a good game and I have to have a better game.''
Chicago greeted Khabibulin awfully quickly, as Patrick Sharp gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead just 51 seconds into the game. It was his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
Edmonton countered quickly as Andrew Cogliano beat Antti Niemi at 2:30, but Jack Skille -- who was recently recalled by AHL Rockford -- converted on a rebound attempt and restored Chicago's lead with his first goal of the season.
"We just started out the way we wanted to start," said Skille, who was Chicago's first-round draft choice in 2005. "We wanted to come out hard and we played the body a lot. It was a good start for us."
Kris Versteeg increased the Blackhawks' lead with his second goal of the season at 9:12 of the second period. With the teams at even strength, Versteeg took a nice feed from Brian Campbell and ripped it past Khabibulin to make it 3-1.
''We weren't very good,'' said Edmonton coach Pat Quinn, whose team was outshot 38-19 and outplayed for most of the night. ''The score was flattering for us."
Dustin Penner got the Oilers back within one when he beat Niemi midway through the third period, but Cam Barker scored on the power play as his blast got past Khabibulin with only 2:42 remaining. With Khabibulin off for an extra attacker, Denis Grebeshkov cut it to 4-3 with a power-play goal of his own at 19:12.
But the Oilers' comeback bid was too late to keep Khabibulin from going home a loser against the team he led to the Western Conference Finals last spring.
"We always had a big appreciation for Khabby and what he meant to our team," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, whose team erased a 5-0 deficit on Monday night in a 6-5 overtime win against Calgary. "He was a good teammate and was a big part of our success during (last) season and during the playoffs. We're happy for him doing well, but at the same time, change is part of our business. I'm sure he's fitting in very well with his new group."
When he looks back on his time Chicago, Khabibulin has fond memories as he had the opportunity to watch the Blackhawks regain their status as a League superpower.
"It was pretty rough when we didn't play well and didn't have any fans," Khabibulin said. "But then the fans started to come back, games were on TV. … there was a positive buzz. All of a sudden, it was a lot of fun to play here."
-- Brian Compton, NHL.com
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.