The Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 Tuesday night behind two goals by Kyle Brodziak, gaining 2 more points in the tight Western Conference playoff race. The 2nd win in two nights gives Minnesota a total of 51 points putting them 4 up on 8th and 9th place Detroit and Columbus. That’s some much needed separation from the bottom teams in the playoff picture. While the Wild won they didn’t gain ground on 4th and 5th place San Jose and Los Angeles. The Sharks beat the Kings in a shootout to each remain 2 points ahead of Minnesota. The Oilers lost their sixth consecutive game and their first since firing general manager Steve Tambellini and replacing him with Craig MacTavish. They have all but been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs at this point. Time to oil up those golf clubs Edmonton.
The Minnesota offense picked up where they left off in Calgary Monday evening. Once again the Wild scored the first goal, as Kyle Brodziak lit the lamp just 1:01 into the game. That’s the third game in a row the Wild have struck first allowing them to put and keep the pressure on their opponent. Minnesota controlled play throughout the opening period out shooting the Oilers 11-7 and out-chanced them heavily. Edmonton would tie the game late in the period on a strange goal by Nail Yakupov. The puck got caught up in defenseman Brett Clark‘s gear and he spun around looking for it. The puck fell out and landed right on the tape of Yakupov who popped it past Backstrom to knot the game at 1. Outside of that lucky break the Oilers had very little in the way of sustained offensive pressure in the opening or any period for that matter. Goal tender Niklas Backstrom continued his mastery over the Oilers raising his career record to 25-3-1 all-time against Edmonton. On the season Backstrom is now 22-12-3 on the season with a 2.4 goals against and a save percentage of .912. He continues to lead all NHL net minders in wins this season. The other Oiler killer, Pierre-Marc Bouchard continued to add points, with an assist on one of Brodziaks goals, giving him 42 points in 47 career games versus Edmonton.
The Wild continued their recent trend of early period strikes by regaining the lead at the 2:56 mark when Charlie Coyle caught a piece of a Clayton Stoner slap shot redirecting it past Devan Dubnyk. Stoner would end up with a pair of assists on the night, his third multi point game of the season. He also played a very strong game defensively against a group of talented young Oilers forwards. Minnesota would make it 3-1 just 3 and a half minutes after Coyle’s marker when rookie Mikael Granlund scored his second goal of the season. He almost didn’t see action tonight having been reassigned to Houston but Mike Rupp aggravated an injury and was unable to go. Enter Granlund and he made the most of the opportunity with a goal, a +1 rating in almost 11 minutes of ice time. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo liked his teams effort in the 2nd saying, “We came out with a real good focus in the second period and got right back to OUR game.” He added, “The more consistency you see in our game, the more consistency you’ll see in the results.” By the end of the 2nd the Wild led Edmonton in just about all offensive categories and 23-13 in shots on goal.
Minnesota started the 3rd period with 1:09 of carry over power play time but only need 20 seconds of it, as Zach Parise scored his 16th goal of the season. Post game Parise said, “We take a lot of pride in our power play and at this time it’s gotta deliver. It did.” Jason Pominville and Ryan Suter picked up the assists on Parise’s goal. Suter now has 28 assists, tops for a defenseman in the league. Pominville now has 8 points (4 g, 4 a) in 7 games since being traded to the Wild. Minnesota wasn’t done there as Brodziak scored his second of the night on a break away goal at the 5:37 mark. A great pass from Bouchard that Pominville slapped ahead to a breaking Brodziak, sent the center in alone on Dubnyk. The Oilers goalie froze on a head fake leaving enough room for the puck to carom of the post and the pads for the score. A total of 9 Wild players had now registered at least a point. With more than 14 minutes left in the 3rd the Wild now led 5-1 causing the Oilers’ home crowd to start raining boo’s down on their squad. The Oilers would eventually bring the score to within 2 at 5-3 with 7:13 remaining. Edmonton showed why the do have the 4th ranked power play in the league as Captain Shawn Horcoff finished a nice passing play from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov with a tap in goal past Backstrom. Magnus Paajarvi would finish the scoring for Edmonton.
Stoner’s delay of game penalty that led to the power play goal would be the only penalty the Wild would take on the night. A very disciplined effort indeed for the visitors from Minnesota. The Wild defense played a very solid game, limiting the Oilers to just 19 shots on goal. Time and time again the talented young Edmonton skaters would lug the puck into the zone only to see it headed the other way after just 1 shot attempt or turn over. The Wild are now 8-3-1 in their last 11 road games and winners of three straight away from the Xcel Energy Center. With the tight Western Conference standings, the first tie breaker of total regulation and overtime wins (ROW) becomes critical. The Wild now have 20 ROW, only Chicago (27), Los Angeles (22), and Anaheim (21) have more. The next big game of the season for the Wild is Thursday night in San Jose. That is one of just two games the rest of the season in which Minnesota plays a team ahead of them in the conference standings. Your Minnesota Wild Game Day Correspondent, that’s me, Scott Drain will be back with a preview of that match up Thursday morning. Until then keep the faith Wild fans, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are near, the playoff drought for the Wild may be ending, but never stop yelling, “LET’S GO WILD!!”