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Soft goals not enough for Hawks
As tough a season as Nikolai Khabibulin has had for the Blackhawks, the Edmonton Oilers could be challenging for the Western Conference lead if he were wearing their blue and orange.
The Oilers have struggled all season with goaltending that has been average at best as they fight for a playoff spot with the most important position in the game their biggest deficiency.
Dwayne Roloson was supposed to solve that when he came over from Minnesota in a deadline-day trade.
But when Kyle Calder threw a shot from the goal line that somehow went through Roloson's pads at the 18-minute-1-second mark of the third period to tie the game and force overtime, questions about just how much the Oilers upgraded the position resurfaced.
The Oilers ended up winning 4-3 when Ryan Smyth scored on a power play, the third power-play goal of the night for Edmonton and his second of the game, at 3:18 of the extra session.
It was the second straight victory for Edmonton and moved the Oilers into sixth place in the Western Conference. It also set up a potential first-round matchup with their archrival, the Calgary Flames.
The game-winner came just 16 seconds after Edmonton thought it had won the game when Fernando Pisani broke into the slot and appeared to beat Khabibulin, who reached on the goal line to cover the puck.
The play was reviewed by league officials in Torontowhich took six minutesbefore it was determined there was no conclusive evidence to award a goal, even though replays appeared to show Khabibulin reaching into the net to pull the puck back.
Despite playing with Edmontonand at times controlling the playin the first 20 minutes, the Hawks eventually found themselves chasing the speedier Oilers. They paid the price for being a step behind.
A turnover and a two-on-one, which eventually led to a delayed Hawks penalty, resulted in the first Edmonton goal. Smyth tucked a rebound of a Shawn Horcoff shot past Khabibulin to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead and a preview of what was to come.
The Hawks came into the game having scored on just one of their last 24 power plays and were just 1-for-12 on the power play in their three previous games against Edmonton.
They managed to spend the entire two minutes of their first power play Friday without a shot on goal, and their second was going nowhere before Radim Vrbata fired a slap shot from 60 feet past Roloson.
Power plays were a double-edged sword Friday night. Twice the Hawks had power plays negated when they took penalties. Both times the Oilers scored to grab a 3-1 lead.
Ales Hemsky tapped in a rebound of a Smyth shot with both Calder and Rene Bourque in the penalty box to give Edmonton the lead. It was the 14th time this season the Hawks had given up a goal while down two men.
James Wisniewski ended another Hawks power play with a holding penalty, and Matthew Barnaby soon followed him to the box. The Hawks killed six seconds of another two-man disadvantage before Pisani had a clear path in the slot to beat Khabibulin.
After being in the top 10 for most of the season, the Hawks have fallen to 12th in the league in penalty killing. They lead the league in times short-handed by a wide margin.
The Hawks pulled within 3-2 early in the third when Mark Bell scored his 24th goal of the year on a power play.