Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin earned his 39th career NHL shutout and Patrick Sharp netted his sixth goal of the young season as the Blackhawks defeated Edmonton 3-0 Wednesday, ending the Oilers’ season-opening four-game winning streak.
“He’s been very good,” said Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville of his starting goaltender, who has now started four regular-season games after not playing at all during the preseason. “It’s nice to see a guy who was off for an extended period to come back with a great response.”
Sharp led off the scoring on the Hawks’ first power play of the night, 2:36 in the first, with a snap shot past Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson. Brent Seabrook ended the period with a shorthanded goal off a nice feed from Dave Bolland to make the score 2-0 heading into the first intermission.
“Our power play’s been good the past couple of games; We’re just trying to focus getting the puck in the net and it’s finding a way to go in.” said Sharp, “Shorthanded, Bolland and [Kris Versteeg] created a bunch of chances. It was great to score the three goals, and of course Nik stood on his head.”
Defenseman Aaron Johnson, who has been solid defensively all year, capped the scoring on a slap shot near Edmonton’s blue line in the second period.
“I think the whole team worked well,” said Khabibulin. “Edmonton’s a fast team and I thought we outskated them tonight. Overall, I think it was probably one of the better games of the year for us.”
The Hawks have now earned points in all three games since Quenneville took over as head coach.
“We’ve had three good games, but I thought this was our best,” said Quenneville. “In all areas we were strong; our special teams were really good.”
But the story of the night was Khabibulin, who has working in tandem all season long with fellow goaltender Cristobal Huet. Khabibulin was named the game’s first star, saving 23 shots on the night.
“It lookls pretty good right now,” said Sharp of the goalie tandem. “Every night we’ve got a number one goalie in there. It seems like it doesn’t matter who’s in the net; we’re going to get a good effort.”
The Hawks will need everyone at their best for their next opponent, the defending champion Detroit Red Wings, who visit the United Center Saturday night.
“We have a couple of big games against them this year,” said Quenneville, alluding to the Winter Classic game that will be held at Wrigley Field on January 1. “I’m looking forward to it.”