-- The Florida Panthers
were late getting started when they filed into Rexall Place Sunday, as they were the final NHL team to get its 2010-11 season under way.
The Edmonton Oilers
had no such excuse for making a capacity crowd at home wait, but that's what their fans did until the Oilers overcame a sluggish start with three goals in the second period en route to a 3-2 win that was backstopped by a 26-save effort by Nikolai Khabibulin
The Oilers, who finished with the worst record in the NHL last season (27-47-8), have back-to-back victories and four points to start the 2010-11 campaign.
"I felt pretty good," said Khabibulin, who shook off any rust from an 11-month layoff after back surgery by shutting out the Calgary Flames 4-0 in Edmonton's season-opener Thursday. "I felt better today to start the game than the last game. Again, the few shots I didn't see, guys were able to block, and that's a huge help."
After showing all kinds of jump in the crowd-pleasing rout of the Flames, the Oilers didn't have nearly the same legs or intensity -- especially early -- against the Panthers.
They got away with it thanks to goals by Dustin Penner, Ryan Jones
and Shawn Horcoff
-- with plenty of help from Khabibulin, who followed up his 37-save shutout of Calgary with another stingy outing.
"I think everyone knows just how good Khabby can be," Horcoff said. "He stole that one for us tonight. We didn't play the type of hockey we need to to be successful, but he has that ability."
As listless as the Oilers appeared in the first period -- they were outshot 11-3 -- it didn't take them long to get going in the second, as they scored on their first three shots. Penner made Edmonton's first shot of the period count when he deflected Tom Gilbert
's point shot under Tomas Vokoun's glove just 93 seconds in, igniting a three-goal outburst in a span of 5:47.
Jones made it with a tip at 2-0 at 5:34. Then, after former Oilers forward Marty Reasoner cut the lead in half with his first of two goals, Horcoff was credited with the 3-1 goal at 7:20 when Taylor Hall
's pass into the slot deflected in off his skate. The play was reviewed, but the goal stood.
"There's not much you can do," shrugged Vokoun. "One was a good deflection. The other two, you know, one guy (Jones) didn't even know it hit his stick. The other one goes off the skate. It's tough. I think we played well. We were the better team the whole game. We just didn't have good fortune tonight."
The assist on Horcoff's goal was Hall's first NHL point. While it wasn't nearly as pretty as Jordan Eberle
's first goal in the win over Calgary, just like that, the Oilers had three goals on six shots.
"It's nice to get a point," Hall said. "You know you're contributing somehow. That's not the prettiest point, but I'll take it. Hopefully it'll give me a little bit of confidence for the next game."
Khabibulin, 37, was a big question mark going into the season because of his long layoff, but he's stopped 63 of the 65 shots he's faced so far. Sunday's performance was timely, to say the least, with the Oilers far from being on top of their game.
"I think it's going to happen whether it's a young team or we have older players," Khabibulin said of the effort. "I've been around for a long time and, even if we have older players, starts like that happen. The good thing is we hung in there and got the two points."