EDMONTON – Dustin Penner is happy to shoulder more of the offensive load in Edmonton – and the Oilers sure don’t mind, either.
Penner and Gilbert Brule each scored twice as the Edmonton Oilers cruised past the Minnesota Wild 5-2 on Friday night for their third win in the past four games. Penner, who now has five goals and nine points on the season, said he’s thrilled to be making a bigger offensive contribution so far.
“My linemates made some really nice passes to me,” he said. “I think the whole team is playing with confidence offensively. We just need to work on some of our systems play.”
Head coach Pat Quinn raved about the play of youngsters Penner and Brule, who have combined for nine of Edmonton’s 28 goals this season.
“(Penner) is big and strong and holding the puck well,” he said. “He’s got a good skill level, he’s not just a big man. He gave some good second efforts tonight. He is doing lots of little things really well. I like a lot of the things that I see out of him.
“(Brule) competes hard and he is really sharp around the net. We need to see that regularly on a consistent basis from him and we have to this point.”
Mike Comrie also scored for the Oilers (4-2-1).
Benoit Pouliot and Andrew Brunette responded for the Wild (1-5-0), who have lost the first four games of a five-game road trip.
“I don’t think this trip could have gone any worse at this point,” said Wild goalie Josh Harding. “It’s disappointing battling back and letting up another one. We have to find a way to win and right now we just keep finding ways to lose.”
Minnesota head coach Todd Richards said there were at least a few good things to take out of the latest loss.
“There were a lot of good things in the game, it’s just those mistakes,” he said. “We are making a lot of big mistakes. I know it is a loss. We have one game left in this road trip and we have to try to build off of positive things. We’ll get over this and we will win these type of games in the future.”
The game was scoreless through one period, though the Oilers had a couple of near-misses. With five minutes to play in the first, Patrick O’Sullivan rang a backhander off of the crossbar. Three minutes later, Brule tipped a shot past Harding than hit the post.
Edmonton finally broke the deadlock less than two minutes into the second as Comrie took a nice return pass from Robert Nilsson and put a shot over Harding’s shoulder for his third of the season.
The Oilers went up 2-0 with eight minutes to play in the second as O’Sullivan made a slick pass through the crease to Penner on the doorstep.
“That was an elite-level pass,” Penner said. “It was a good feeling watching that come to your stick.”
Minnesota cut into the lead with three minutes to play in the second as a rebound in front of the Oiler net came straight to Pouliot, who chipped a shot over Edmonton starter Nikolai Khabibulin.
The Oilers regained their two-goal advantage with just 43 seconds remaining as Harding allowed a rebound to get away from him. The Oilers crashed the net, with Brule poking in the puck to make it 3-1.
The Wild made it a one-goal game again three minutes into the third on a power play, as Brunette spun around in front of the net to see a rebound laying in front of him and shovelled in his fifth of the season.
Edmonton restored the two-goal cushion with eight minutes left as Sam Gagner made a long pass to Penner, who drove the net to chip in his second of the game. Brule closed out the scoring with his second of the game less than two minutes later.
Minnesota outshot Edmonton 31-19.
The Wild wrap up the five-game trip in Vancouver on Saturday while the Oilers will also have the Canucks as their next opponents, hosting Vancouver on Monday.
Notes: Oilers forward Ales Hemsky was a game-day scratch with the flu. He was replaced on the top line by Nilsson. … The Oilers were also still missing defencemen Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios, both out with concussions. … It’s not any better on the injury front for the Wild, missing four of their top nine forwards in Pierre Marc-Bouchard (concussion), Martin Havlat (groin), Petr Sykora (groin) and Cal Clutterbuck (sprained ankle). … Derek Boogaard played his first game of the season for the Wild after suffering a pre-season concussion. … Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom is 13-1-0 all-time against the Oilers with four shutouts, but was passed over in favour of Harding. Backstrom has struggled in Edmonton of late, having been pulled four times in six starts at Rexall Place. … It was the first of six meetings between the two teams this season. Last season, the Wild won four of six meetings with the Oilers.