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Khabibulin, Oilers shut out Blues

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues have done an outstanding job of limiting opponents' shots on goal this season, leading the NHL by allowing just 23.7 shots per game.

As the Edmonton Oilers proved Tuesday night, however, it's not the number of shots which is important -- it's the number of shots that go in the net that counts.

The Oilers scored three times on their first seven shots and got a stellar performance from goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who stopped all 43 St. Louis shots, in beating the Blues 3-0, snapping St. Louis' home winning streak at four games and giving Edmonton its first win in four games.

The shutout was the 46th of Khabibulin's career but his first against the Blues. His last shutout came on Nov. 3, 2011.

"Tonight I think everything clicked," Khabibulin said. "It's nice. A while ago I was trying to see how many teams I had shut out in my career and St. Louis wasn't one of them. Coming into a game you want to get a shutout but you don't really expect one.

"For us it's such a desperation time, getting two points is more important right now. Having played a good game is more important than a shutout. Shut outs are a combination of a team playing good, the goalie playing good, getting lucky a couple of times. When everything falls in place you get a shutout."

Jordan Eberle scored twice and Taylor Hall knocked in a rebound of a shot by Eberle to give the Oilers only their second win in their last 14 games against the Blues and first since Dec. 11, 2009. Hall also earned assists on both of Eberle's goals.

Khabibulin's saves included a point-blank save on a shot early in the second period by David Perron, which could have tied the game at 1. That save was followed only seconds later by Eberle's second goal of the game, 3:26 into the second period.

Less than two minutes later, Eberle's attempt for the hat trick was stopped by goalie Jake Allen, but he left the rebound right in front of the open net and Hall knocked it home for the 3-0 Edmonton lead.

Khabibulin made certain that was all the Oilers needed for the win, despite being outshot 43-19.

"He kept us in the game, and he kept making saves," Eberle said. "He was there to shut the door. He was the story of the night. He made the saves when it mattered."

The Blues pulled Allen after the third Edmonton goal.

"It's still my job to stop the puck," Allen said. "I've got to find a way. This was not my best effort. They got a couple of chances early and made the most of them. I need to give the guys a chance."

More than an hour after the game, St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock had not come out of his office to speak to the media.

Edmonton coach Ralph Krueger was quick to praise his team's effort, which came after a loss at Nashville on Monday night.

"It's a game that teaches our team what it takes to win a game at this stage of the year if you want to stay in the race," Krueger said. "It's by far our most complete game. This was truly a start to finish line kind of game from the battle level."

The leadership set by his goalie rubbed off on the rest of his team, Krueger said.

"He's a winner and a great example for this whole group," Krueger said. "He was perfect with a zero, but more important for us than the saves he was making was the intensity level he was showing."

The Blues, who have limited their opponents to less than 20 shots in each of their last four games, could not get the puck past Khabibulin, who stopped 21 shots in the second period alone, including a breakaway attempt by David Backes.

In their last two games, losses to Calgary and Edmonton, the Blues outshot their opponents 81-36 but were outscored 6-2.

NOTES: The Oilers placed forward Eric Belanger on injured reserve after he had to come out of Monday night's game in Nashville in the second period because of a groin injury. ... The Blues came into the game in seventh place in the Western Conference standings while Edmonton was five points out of a playoff spot. Both teams have 16 games remaining in the regular season, but the Blues' playoff chances will be enhanced by playing nine of their final 16 games at home, including seven of the final eight. ... Both teams will be back in action on Thursday night, with the Blues hosting the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton returning home to play Vancouver.
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