EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers celebrated Fan Appreciation Night by rewarding their faithful with a rare win.
Mike Comrie scored in regulation and added the shootout winner as the Oilers snapped a three-game losing skid, defeating the Minnesota Wild 2-1 Friday night. The Oilers (20-38-6) remained in last place in the NHL and have won just five games since December 15.
“It’s about time that something good happened for these young men,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn.
“It’s always fun when you win, you can kind of smile again,” said Comrie, who scored his eighth goal in just 27 games this season. “We played hard and changed the tune, got a win, and it’s a lot more fun winning. When you’re battling and playing hard and not getting the wins it get frustrating, they add up.”
Quinn said he has been impressed with the way that Comrie has battled this year, coming off a lengthy absence due to a bout of mono.
“Mike made a decision to come back,” he said. “He’s one of those guys that wants to play here. He had the unfortunate illness and it really side-railed him for a while. He wants to make a contribution. He wanted to take that shot in the shootout tonight. And he went out there and found the five-hole with a great play. If he can play like that he can make a contribution to this organization.”
Guillaume Latendresse replied for the Wild (31-27-5) who saw a two-game winning streak come to an end and fell six points back eighth place in the Western Conference.
Wild assistant captain Owen Nolan wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance.
“There are a couple teams between us and eighth place so to play like we did tonight was very disappointing,” he said. “We have to be better than that. There are no excuses. We just didn’t play good hockey tonight. We didn’t play as well as we should have. We need every point we can get and we let one slip away tonight.”
Edmonton had a glorious chance just over a minute into the game as Sam Gagner took a shot from behind the net that it the skate of defender Marek Zidlicky and was headed across the line before Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom dove back to smother the puck.
The Oilers were able to get one past Backstrom five minutes later as Comrie took the puck out of a crowd at one side of the net and swung around to the other side before hooking it in to take a 1-0 lead.
There was an ugly incident shortly thereafter as Wild forward Derek Boogaard stretched to land a knee-on-knee hit on Oiler newcomer Ryan Jones.
The recent waiver pick-up from Nashville left the ice clutching his right knee. He was able to return later in the opening period but did not come back for the second.
“I’m surprised they didn’t call a major for that,” Quinn said. “I think the whole rink was surprised that it wasn’t more than a two-minute penalty.”
Edmonton goalie Jeff Deslauriers was solid in the early running, coming across to stop Nolan on a two-on-one opportunity.
The Wild tied the game seven and a half minutes into the second period as Latendresse walked around defenceman Tom Gilbert and swung behind the net before calmly depositing it behind Deslauriers.
The Wild held a 16-13 shot advantage after 40 minutes.
There was no scoring in a evenly-played third period highlighted by Backstrom robbing Gilbert Brule on a point-blank attempt with just two minutes remaining.
Minnesota had a power play for the final minute of overtime but couldn’t capitalize, sending the game to the shootout.
Both teams return to the ice on Sunday as the Wild host Calgary and Edmonton welcomes the New Jersey Devils.
Notes: It was the fourth and final meeting between the two teams with the home team winning in each of the three previous contests… Tom Gilbert was the only defenceman that was in the opening day lineup to play for the Oilers on Friday. Ladislav Smid, Denis Grebeshkov and Steve Staios were all traded earlier in the week and Ladislav Smid and Sheldon Souray are out with injuries… Souray looks to be done for the season as his broken hand has become infected. Smid is also unlikely to return, requiring surgery on his neck… A pair of defencemen that came to the Oilers in deadline deals, Ryan Whitney (from Anaheim) and Aaron Johnson (Calgary), made their debuts for Edmonton in the game… Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom entered the game with a 14-1-0 record with a 1.64 goals against average and four shutouts in 17 career starts versus the Oilers but had been pulled in four of six starts in Rexall Place… It was the second game back for Wild winger Chuck Kobasew after missing 23 matches with a knee injury… The Wild have more franchise wins (27) against the Oilers than they have had against any other NHL squad.