Emotions run high as Wild snap eight-game losing streak, beat Oilers
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - After nearly three weeks, the Minnesota Wild found a way back into the win column. Native Minnesotan Jarod Palmer got his first career goal, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored just seconds later in the second period, en route to a hard-fought and emotional 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.
The result snapped a string of eight games without a win for the Wild, who, pending the outcome of the Canucks' visit to Anaheim on Thursday evening, moved back into a tie with Vancouver atop the Northwest Division.
"That was fun, wasn't it? That was ice hockey," said Wild coach Mike Yeo, after a game that featured end-to-end offense, big saves, big hits, controversial calls and even a fight or two.
Wild winger Matt Kassian pummeled Edmonton's Darcy Hordichuk in the second period, as the Wild took a 3-1 lead and seemed to be cruising to the end of the losing streak. Up 4-2 at the start of the third, Kassian should've known Hordichuk wanted a rematch when the Oilers forward came out for the faceoff without elbow pads on. The puck was dropped, as were four hockey gloves, and round two ended with a similar result: Hordichuk on the ice, the crowd roaring and both men headed for the penalty box.
It was the final game between the Wild and Oilers as members of the Northwest Division, and Yeo joked that after the emotion spent on Thursday, both teams are likely happy to be done with each other.
"I think we've had enough of these guys," said Edmonton's Shawn Horcoff. "It's unfortunate because I think now you're starting to see a couple young teams really going in the right direction. It's going to be fun."
For the Wild, things didn't appear to be going in the right direction early. Edmonton's first shot of the game eluded Niklas Backstrom, but that was a rarity. He finished with 27 saves and was brilliant in the third, as Edmonton pressed hard to tie. The goalie even took extra measures to defend his crease, dropping Edmonton's Ryan Jones with a forearm to the head at one point.
"At some point, enough is enough," said Backstrom, who was called for roughing on the play, and who ended the game trading blows with Oilers forward Ryan Smyth. "He slashed me four times before that, so I had a lot of things I had to catch up."
It was a clear sign that to a man, the Wild were sick and tired of losing.
"It's been a difficult stretch for everybody," Yeo said. "This is a game where I think our group just put their foot down and said 'that's it.'"
If you can't score early, score often. It was the Oilers scoring early, taking a 1-0 lead just 84 seconds into the game. So the Wild answered by scoring often - most notably via the two goals just 19 seconds apart in the second period, turning a 1-1 tie into a two goal lead on back-to-back shifts.
"That's tough when they get one right when the announcer is saying who scored the last goal," said Oilers forward Taylor Hall. "That's kind of a letdown, but we did respond."
• 7: Minnesotans who have scored a goal for the Wild, after Palmer (from Fridley) got his first on Thursday.
• 400: Regular season sellouts by the Wild since 2000, after every ticket was sold on Thursday.
• 16-0-0: Backstrom's all-time home record versus the Oilers.
• 9: Consecutive games with at least a point by Mikko Koivu, after he had a goal and an assist on Thursday.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon sat out again with a lower body injury after that nasty check he took in the loss to the Avalanche on Monday. That's the bad news. The good news is that Devin Setoguchi posted a Tweet yesterday telling fans that he's skating better and is getting closer to returning to the lineup. Setoguchi hasn't played since suffering a knee injury on Dec. 6 in San Jose.
Oilers - Taylor Hall 10 (Eberle, Gilbert), 1:24
Wild - Mikko Koivu 9 (Zidlicky, Zanon), 13:47
Oilers - Shawn Horcoff 8 (Smyth), 6:40, 4-on-4
Shots: Wild 10-9-8-27; Oilers 9-9-12-30. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (27-30); Oilers, Nickolai Khabibulin (15-19), Devan Dubnyk (8-8). Power plays: Wild 0-for-1, Oilers 0-3.
Wild fans will say goodbye to 2011 with hockey, as Minnesota hosts the Phoenix Coyotes at 5 p.m. on New Year's Eve. The Wild won the only meeting between the teams so far this season, Dec. 10 in Arizona.