TORONTO (AP) -The Edmonton Oilers are feeling a lot better about their season.
Nikolai Khabibulin stopped all 33 shots he faced and Edmonton cruised to a 5-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, the Oilers' third road victory in four nights.
Khabibulin became the third goalie to win during the streak, following Martin Gerber in Ottawa on Monday night and Devan Dubnyk in Montreal on Wednesday night.
``We're definitely going in the right direction,' said Khabibulin, making his first start after missing seven games because of a groin injury. ``We're more aware of things. I was really impressed how we picked up the late guys tonight. We intercepted a lot of passes through the seams. It seems like we were doing better in the last few games managing the turnovers. It's just a better effort.'
It was only 10 days ago that Oilers coach Tom Renney laid into his team following a 5-1 loss in Phoenix. The players have responded with four victories in five games since he questioned their commitment.
``What we've done is we've just tried to break each game into increments of 20 minutes - and even beyond that 5-minute segments - and identify the good things that they're doing,' Renney said. ``Not to dwell too much on those things that can go wrong because that can happen to any team.
``Just try to build the resolve that is required to work your way through those tough stretches.'
Taylor Hall scored twice, and Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner and Ryan Jones also scored for Edmonton, 9-12-4 after the three-game winning streak.
``At the beginning of the season, I said it was a process and I just wanted to get a comfort level down,' said Hall, drafted first overall in June. ``Definitely, there are games now where I feel very comfortable out there and my confidence is good. Any player can tell you, when you do have confidence it's a special thing.
``I'm feeling pretty good about my game right now.'
Toronto, shut out for the sixth time this season, fell to 8-12-4. The Maple Leafs have dropped 16 of their last 20 games, sinking to 28th overall in the NHL standings. The restless home crowd expressed its displeasure by booing at the start of the second intermission and throughout the final period.
The outlook has changed considerably for Edmonton since coach Tom Renney blasted his team last week, calling them a joke following a loss in Phoenix. The Oilers have gone 4-1-0 since.
Playing for the second time in as two nights, they made the most of limited opportunities in the offensive zone against Toronto.
Eberle scored his fifth of the season just 3:10 into the game, racing up the right side and around defenseman Tomas Kaberle before beating Jonas Gustavsson from a bad angle.
A highlight-reel goal from Hall made it 2-0 early in the second period. He skated around Francois Beauchemin and roofed a backhander at 6:10 - prompting Leafs coach Ron Wilson to send in Jean-Sebastien Giguere for Gustavsson.
It didn't do much to shake up his listless team. Gagner ended Toronto's comeback hopes by skating hard to the net and knocking a rebound past Giguere with 2.6 seconds left in the middle period.
Khabibulin's second shutout of the season was without a signature save. His toughest tests both came off the stick of Nazem Kadri - with Khabibulin getting his glove on a quick shot in the first period before denying a wraparound attempt in the middle frame.
``No excuses, we've got to figure out a way to get some goals,' Kadri said. ``I'm happy I'm getting chances, but the bottom line is that I need to put those in the back of the net.'
As the minutes ticked down, several fans chanted ``Fire Wilson! Fire Wilson!'
``We've got three or four guys who should be scoring on some of the chances they've had, and they're not,' Wilson said. ``And when they don't score on those chances, it affects the rest of the team.'
Hall and Jones scored 34 seconds apart late in the game for Edmonton, which moved ahead of Toronto in the overall standings with the victory.
``I just felt like we almost quit on the goalies there a little bit and it's not acceptable,' Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur said. ``You go into the game all ready to go, the systems are all laid out and then we don't want to follow them. It's one of those things where if don't we all buy in, you know you're going to have nights like this and we didn't buy in tonight.'
NOTES: The Oilers will play their next six games at home. ... Ales Hemsky, J.F. Jacques and Jason Strudwick didn't play for the Oilers. ... Toronto scratched Keith Aulie. ... Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf missed his 13th game because of a laceration on his left leg.
The Associated Press News Service
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