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Oilers snap slide by beating Stars 4-1

by Robin Brownlee
EDMONTON, Alta. --

Nikolai Khabibulin put a 14-game losing streak behind him, and the Edmonton Oilers did likewise to a seven-game winless streak at home.

Khabibulin made 24 saves Tuesday night to pick up his first win since Dec. 16, while Jordan Eberle, Taylor Chorney, Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky scored the goals as the Oilers beat Dallas 4-1 to put a stop to a 0-6-1 slide at home.

"It's kind of been a long time coming," said Chorney, whose first NHL goal stood as the winner.
"I think it was my 51st game tonight, so it would have been nice had it come a bit quicker than that, but I'm not going to complain. It's definitely nice to get that one over with."

After a closed-door meeting with GM Steve Tambellini on Monday in the wake of a listless 4-0 loss to Anaheim the night before, the Oilers responded with their most complete team effort in recent memory against the suddenly struggling Stars.

"We got challenged for sure," said Horcoff, who added a pair of assists for a three-point night. "We've been in that situation once or twice this year and I thought we responded well to it, so I had full confidence the guys were going to tonight. You can just tell the intensity was there at the start of the game."

Khabibulin ended his frustrating losing stretch. Hemsky put the brakes on a drought that had seen him go 12 games without a goal. Edmonton's power play, without a goal in its last 26 attempts spanning seven games, put two pucks behind Kari Lehtonen, including Chorney's winner.

"Obviously, when I haven't had much success lately, it's always nice to get in the game like that," Khabibulin said of early saves on Brenden Morrow and Tomas Vincour to keep the game scoreless.
"The biggest thing tonight is we didn't panic when we had the lead. We were up by two after two periods and we didn't sit back. We kept going after them and scored another goal."

Dallas, missing seven regulars including leading scorer Brad Richards, had beaten the Oilers in three previous meetings this season, but this loss leaves the Stars with just one win in their last seven games. The Stars have fallen to fifth in the West -- they are second among four teams tied with 68 points, but are just three in front of ninth-place Minnesota.

"It is what it is but you have to deal with it," coach Marc Crawford said of the injuries that have contributed to a difficult stretch. "We've got to concentrate on one thing and that's making sure that we work as hard as we absolutely can. To me, that is the only thing that we need to focus on.

"Whether it's our penalty kill, or our 5-on-5, we have to get it in our mindset that each and every guy putting on the Stars uniform is going to be going short and going to be going hard . . . you do things the right way. You do that and keep games close, you give yourselves an opportunity."

The Oilers got out to the kind of start they were looking for as they outhit the Stars 12-2 and outshot them 11-7 through 20 minutes on the way to a 1-0 lead on Eberle's 14th of the season at 18:02.

The story, though, was Khabibulin. Had he not slid across the crease to make a pad save on Morrow and then stifled Vincour with another sliding save, the Oilers would've been down by two by the time Eberle popped Sam Gagner's pass high past Lehtonen.

Khabibulin was superb again in the second period as the Stars came at him hard early. Another big save, this time on Mike Ribeiro six minutes in, set the stage for Chorney's goal.

"It was awesome for him to make those big saves and keep us alive," Gagner said. "We haven't been good for him and haven't been able to get him wins. He breaks a little bit of a streak here and it's because he kept us in it early. It's got to be a great feeling for him."

Chorney, recalled from Oklahoma City Monday, made it 2-0 at 7:40 as he one-timed a Horcoff pass behind Lehtonen to get Edmonton's power play plugged in.

It took 15 shots before the Stars solved Khabibulin. With Dallas on a power play, Loui Eriksson split Theo Peckham and Tom Gilbert and tucked a backhand past Khabibulin to narrow it to 2-1 at 16:31

Edmonton's power play answered, connecting again at 18:10 to restore the two-goal lead as Horcoff re-directed a Hemsky pass behind Lehtonen to make it 3-1. Horcoff returned the favor 28 seconds into the third period, sending Hemsky in alone before he tucked a backhand past Lehtonen.

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