Nolan, Backstrom help Wild blank Oilers

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — Owen Nolan is doing his best to get
the Minnesota Wild into the playoffs.

Nolan scored two goals to lift the Minnesota Wild to a 3-0 win
over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.

The Wild moved within a point behind Nashville, which was idle
on Sunday, in the race for eighth place in the Western
Conference. The Oilers are seventh, two points ahead of the

“We’re in desperate mode right now and have to get everything we
can,” Nolan said. “Especially playing a team that’s within
reach, we’ve got to make sure we close the gap.”

Edmonton, which entered the game without a regulation loss in
its previous seven games, was frustrated throughout by
Minnesota. Wild goaltender Nicklas Backstrom had 31 saves for
his seventh shutout of the season as the game also featured the
return of star forward Marian Gaborik.

“You hate to see the 30-plus shot shutouts. That means you’re
getting pucks to the net,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said.
“If you’re committed enough there you should be able to get some
offense. We just didn’t pay as big a price as we had in the last
number of games.”

The Oilers outshot Minnesota 15-2 in the first period and
repeatedly pressured Backstrom during three power plays.
Minnesota rebounded in the second period, snapping off a
franchise-record 23 shots and scoring the game’s first goal on a
power play. After Dwayne Roloson stopped a long-range shot,
Nolan pushed the rebound over the goal line at 14:26.

“We came out and we were tight. Really tight,” Minnesota coach
Jacques Lemaire said. “Not skating, afraid to make mistakes. We
didn’t move the puck well. We turned the puck over. Everyone
knew we would play better in the second.”

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Nolan, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent last summer,
scored again in the third period after a nice pass from James
Sheppard at 4:26. It was the team-best 22nd goal for Nolan.

Stephane Veilleux was credited with Minnesota’s third goal at
12:43 of the third. He was closest to the play when Edmonton
defenseman Tom Gilbert inadvertently banked a pass off the skate
of teammate Sam Gagner and into the Oilers’ net.

“If you’re a team that can generate 15 shots in one period
against the Minnesota Wild you know you can create
opportunities, so that’s one positive we can take from it,”
Edmonton’s Shawn Horcoff said.

It was just the seventh game of 2008-09 for Gaborik, who played
the first two games in October, missed two months, played four
games in December (scoring twice), and had been out again since
just before Christmas after having hip surgery. He will be a
free agent at the end of the season and turned down a contract
extension during training camp.

That, and the fact that he’s missed 94 games due to injury since
2005, has drawn the ire of many Wild fans. Still, Gaborik was
greeted mostly with cheers, drowning out a smattering of boos,
when he was introduced on Sunday.

“I was a little nervous before the game, but as soon as I hit
the ice, everything went well,” said Gaborik, who played just
shy of 18 minutes and had six shots.

Roloson, who is 0-6-2 in his past eight starts against his
former team, had 33 saves.