EDMONTON – Dany Heatley further cemented his unpopularity among Edmonton Oilers fans.
Heatley tied the game with two seconds left in regulation and Matt Cullen scored the shootout winner in the Minnesota Wild’s 2-1 comeback victory on Thursday night
With Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom pulled, Heatley put a shot under the arm of Oilers starter Nikolai Khabibulin to force overtime as Minnesota (3-2-2) won its ninth straight over Edmonton.
“It was like he refused to lose that game tonight,”Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said of Heatley.“I was pleased with the guys and their willingness to stick with it and keep battling. I was impressed how they believed they could get it done. I was happy to see Dany Heatley get that goal because he was one of the guys who was at the forefront.”
Heatley originally drew the ire of Edmonton fans when he refused a trade that would have sent him to the Oilers two years ago.
“It felt good,”Heatley said of his tying goal.“We’ve been in every game, we feel like, this season. We’ve lost by one or given up the lead. I thought we dominated the second and third periods tonight and I felt like we deserved it. It was nice to get that win.”
Ryan Jones scored the lone goal for the Oilers (2-2-2), who have lost four of their last five games. Edmonton also led at one point in every one of its games this season.
“We have to start closing games,”said Edmonton forward Eric Belanger, who rang a shot off the post in the shootout session.“We’re playing well but we need to finish.”
Both goalies finished with 30 saves.
The Oilers had the best chance early on as Taylor Hall made a pass through to a hard-charging Jordan Eberle, who couldn’t get a handle on the puck before crashing into the Minnesota net.
Four minutes later Ryan Smyth intercepted an errant Greg Zanon pass in the Wild zone and fed it in front to Jones who had an easy tap-in.
Cullen had the Wild’s best opportunity midway through the second when he split the defence and saw an opening five-hole. Khabibulin, however, slammed his pads shut to make the save and keep the Oilers ahead.
Edmonton missed out on another chance to make it a two-goal game with five minutes left in the second as Belanger got a partial short-handed breakaway, but hit the crossbar.
The shots were a pretty tight 18-17 favouring the Oilers after 40 minutes.
The Wild kept the pressure on in the third period but Khabibulin stood tall for the majority of the period, notably making a key kick save on Heatley with three minutes left.
“I thought we played well, but it came down to tenths of seconds,”said Oilers head coach Tom Renney.“I have nothing but confidence in this team. They’re a pleasure to coach because they want badly to do the right thing.”
Both teams return to the ice on Thursday as the Wild are in Vancouver and the Oilers play host to the New York Rangers.
Notes: The only previous meeting between the two teams this season was also a 2-1 shootout win for the Wild. … Edmonton had forward Taylor Hall back in the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game with the flu. … Edmonton forward Sam Gagner has been cleared to play his first regular season game and will likely play for the team on Thursday. … Minnesota was without defenseman Mike Lundin and forward Cody Almond, both sidelined with back issues. … The Wild’s top line of Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi were back together after the coaches opted to try Pierre-Marc Bouchard in Setoguchi’s place for their last game. … Bouchard came into the contest with 38 points in 39 career games against the Oilers.