Pierre-Marc Bouchard had a goal and an assist, and Niklas Backstrom made 19 saves to lead the Wild past the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 on Sunday.
“At times, we seem to play two good periods and one bad period,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “This afternoon was one of our top games. We played with a lot more intensity. I just hope we’re not peaking too early. We have a lot of games left to play.”
Last season, Minnesota chased Edmonton for a Western Conference playoff berth. The roles are reversed this year.
The Oilers (30-27-6), in ninth place, are nine points behind seventh-place Minnesota. Calgary, the Wild’s opponent on Wednesday, is in eighth.
Edmonton will have several more chances to gain ground on the Wild as the teams will meet four times in the final 19 games.
“This time of the year, we need to get as many points out of games that we can,” Minnesota winger Mark Parrish said.
Fernando Pisani scored his first goal since Jan. 31 seven minutes into the third period to cut the Wild’s lead to 2-1.
Minnesota answered a minute later when Pavol Demitra set up Marian Gaborik during a 2-on-1 for his sixth goal in seven games.
The Wild beat Colorado 4-3 on Thursday, but nearly squandered a three-goal lead. Lemaire didn’t want a repeat Sunday.
“I told the guys that we have to get back on top of them and get right back,” he said. “It’s important to keep playing a goal ahead. You never know what might happen.”
The Wild scored late in the first when Todd White took a pass from Bouchard and poked the puck past former Minnesota goalie Dwayne Roloson. Bouchard added an empty-net goal.
“We didn’t get the breaks and we didn’t get the puck in the back of the net when we needed to,” Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. “We had lots of chances in front of the net, hacking and whacking away and the puck never seemed to fall our way.”
Brent Burns’ goal late in the second period, which made it 2-0, highlighted MacTavish’s frustrations.
After fumbling with the puck in front of the blue line, Burns decided to shoot instead of pass. He sneaked a drive in past a confused Roloson.
Backstrom turned in another solid performance since stepping into the lineup for injured starter Manny Fernandez. Backstrom has gone 7-2-1 in that span and 8-2-2 in his last 12 games. He is third in the NHL with a .923 save percentage for Minnesota, which will play seven of 10 on the road.
“We played some really good hockey and just have to build on our game,” Roloson said. “Unfortunately, Niklas played really well for them, and we weren’t able to capitalize on some chances.”
The loss ended a disappointing seven-game road trip for the Oilers. After starting 0-2-2 on its longest excursion of the season, Edmonton won the next two games, including a victory Friday at Detroit that snapped the Red Wings’ 13-game home winning streak.
“Our team is playing some of its best hockey of the year and we’re not getting a lot to show for it,” MacTavish said. “The one thing I don’t want to have happen is get a lot of frustration seep in and get a lot of negative energy and paralyze us further.”
The Wild are seeing plenty of positive results from their recent strong play. Minnesota can further secure its playoff position with a successful road trip.
“We know going into Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver that those are big games,” Parrish said. “Those are teams we’re either trying to keep below us or teams we’re trying to catch.”
Notes: Ben Utecht, a former Minnesota Gophers tight end and current member of the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, sang the national anthem. … Wild D Petteri Nummelin played for the first time since Feb. 17. He was benched the previous three games. … Oilers D Ladislav Smid left with a right leg injury in the first period and didn’t return.