The Wild left Edmonton feeling a little like they got away with one as they defeated the Oilers 2-1 for their fifth win in a row, while handing the injury decimated Oilers their ninth straight defeat.
Mark Parrish and Marian Gaborik scored for the Wild while newcomer Robert Nilsson had the lone reply for Edmonton.
“We got a little lucky with the intensity we showed tonight,” said Parrish. “We got lucky in the first two periods after coming out flat. We’re happy with the two points, but we’re not happy with the effort we put forth. We’ve got to play a lot harder than that down the stretch.”
With the win the Wild (41-24-7) further cemented their playoff status, moving five points ahead of eighth place Calgary in the Western Conference standings. But with the state of the Oilers, missing 11 players from their lineup against the Wild due to illness and injuries, Minnesota players felt like maybe this game shouldn’t have been as close as a single goal.
Wild forward Brian Rolston says it can be tough to get up for a team that is struggling like Edmonton is but they had to keep their eyes on the bigger picture.
“Obviously they had a lot of guys out of their lineup and it was important that we didn’t allow them to lull us to sleep,” he said. “I thought in the third period we did a better job and (Niklas) Backstrom was solid for us in net.
“And in the standings this was a huge win for us. You can’t take anybody lightly at this time of the season or you are going to be in trouble and I don’t think we did even though we didn’t start well.”
For the Oilers (30-35-6) the free-fall continued as they tied a stretch from the 1994-95 season for their second worst losing streak in franchise history with their ninth consecutive loss, outscored 34-7 during their dreadful recent run.
It is also the eighth in a row Edmonton has dropped since Ryan Smyth was dealt to the Islanders.
But with the way things have been going, losing by a single goal was progress in the eyes of Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.
“We’re just not getting any breaks around the net,” he said. “But I was pretty happy with the way we played tonight. We were in good positions but we just couldn’t get the offence again.
“But a lot of the guys we have in here are doing very well under the circumstances.”
One definite bright spot as Oiler fans look to the future was the play of Nilsson, scoring in his first game of the season after coming to Edmonton as part of the Ryan Smyth deal.
“To get a goal in your first game, that’s a heck of a feeling,” said Nilsson. “That’s pretty special. It’s too bad it couldn’t have been part of a win too.”
Minnesota started the scoring 11:26 into the first period when Mikko Koivu sent a long pass through the crease and past sprawling Edmonton defenceman Matt Greene to Parrish who tapped his 17th past Oilers starter Dwayne Roloson for a 1-0 Wild lead after the opening frame.
After a scoreless second Minnesota finally took advantage of the injury riddled Oilers again just over seven minutes into the third as Pavel Demitra found Gaborik with a pass from behind the net and he put a backhand shot past Roloson for his 24th and a 2-0 Wild lead.
The Oilers didn’t give up though and were able to end Niklas Backstrom’s shutout bid with 3:57 remaining in the third as Patrick Thoresen’s initial shot rebounded to Nilsson, who slammed home the goal in his first game as an Oiler.
But that’s as close as Edmonton would come as Backstrom shut the gate from there to preserve the win.
Both teams return to the ice on Saturday. The Wild conclude their three game swing through Western Canada in Calgary, while the Oilers play the second of a six-game homestand as they host St. Louis.
NOTES: Nilsson made his debut in an Oilers uniform after being called up on an emergency basis to replace Shawn Horcoff, out with the flu. … Nilsson, the son of former Oiler and Calgary Flame star Kent Nilsson, was acquired from the New York
Islanders in the deadline deal trade that saw Ryan Smyth heading the other way. Nilsson has 10 points in seven games with Wilkes-Barre in the AHL since joining the Oilers organizationa Edmonton was missing 11 players for the game with Horcoff ill and 10 others on the injured lista The Oilers had their eyes wide open any time Wild bruiser Derek Boogaard hit the ice in the match. Boogaard has
been responsible for injuries to Edmonton’s Marty Reasoner, Ladislav Smid and Ales Hemsky this seasona Thursday’s match marked a milestone for the Wild as they hit .500 on the road (18-18-3) for the first time this season after starting the season with a woeful 4-15-1 road record.