ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild needs to be almost perfect if they want to sneak into the playoffs. Even that might not be enough, but so far so good.
Chuck Kobasew scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period and the Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers for the 13th straight time at home, 4-2 on Tuesday night.
Andrew Ebbett, Antti Miettinen and Martin Havlat also scored for the Wild, winners of three straight overall.
Minnesota is in 10th place, six points behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 11 games remaining.
The Wild have won three straight for the first time since Jan. 23-28 and will need to keep that winning streak going to have any chance of catching the Red Wings.
“It’s been like that for a month or so. We know we can’t lose a game,” goalie Josh Harding said. “We have to keep this little ball rolling. If we don’t, come playoff time we’ll be on the outside looking in.”
Marc Pouliot and Ryan Potulny scored for the last-place Oilers, who finished a four-game road trip without a win.
The Wild’s home winning streak over Edmonton is tied for the longest home winning streak against an opponent in the NHL, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Wild have played well recently despite several key players missing games with injuries. Starting goalie Niklas Backstrom and defenceman Brent Burns are out. Also missing is role player Shane Hnidy and enforcer Derek Boogaard.
Wild coach Todd Richards welcomed the offence from the low-scoring Ebbett and Kobasew to help make up for the injured regulars. Kobasew hadn’t scored in the last 20 games.
“We had some contributions from guys that I think if you look over the course of the season haven’t contributed as much as they would like,” Richards said. “It always feels good and it’s good for us as a team when you get more contributions from more players. This is the time of the season where you need contributions from everyone.”
The Oilers have been plagued with injuries themselves. Edmonton players have missed 410 games with injuries, compared to 225 last season. The Oilers are 5-21-3 overall since Jan. 1, 1-15-1 on the road since mid-December and have a league-worst 49 points for the season.
Edmonton was looking for its second victory over the Wild in two weeks and was in decent shape when Potulny scored a 5-on-3 goal to tie the score at 2 early in the third period.
Kobasew put the Wild back in front three minutes later and Havlat then beat goalie Jeff Deslauriers a short while later to put the game out of reach.
Losses like this have become common for the Oilers this season, and it’s wearing on many of the players.
“It’s frustrating when you come to the rink every day and don’t have anything to show for it,” defenceman Tom Gilbert said.
Edmonton coach Pat Quinn is worried about the effect losing has on some of his younger players, but also wants to see more from his team mentally.
“It’s not just how we skate, stick handle and shoot,” he said. “If you have physical tools, it’s about knowing how to play the game. Right now, we’re struggling with knowing how to play a game and play it all night long.”
Harding stopped 34 shots and hasn’t lost at home since Feb. 14, 2009. He’s also stopped 113 of the last 118 shots he’s faced.
“We’re battling. We’re getting the ugly wins and the nice wins,” Harding said. “We’re clicking right now and we have to keep it going.”
NOTES: The Oilers assigned top prospect Jordan Eberle to AHL Springfield. Eberle, the 22nd pick in the 2008 draft, finished with 106 points this season for the Regina Pats of the WHL. … The Wild signed college free agent centre Casey Wellman to a two-year deal. Wellman just finished his sophomore season at Massachusetts where he scored 23 goals, sixth-most in Division I. Wellman participated in the pregame skate but didn’t play. … Minnesota also signed G Matt Hackett, its third-round selection in the 2009 draft, to a three-year deal. … The Wild also called up D Justin Falk from AHL Houston as injury insurance. … Edmonton had 20 shots on goal in the third period. It was the first time the Wild allowed 20 shots on goal at home.