It's only Edmonton, but Wild wins again
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Before you get too excited, remember this: It's just Edmonton.
The Minnesota Wild got a nice and much-needed win on Thursday, 4-2 over the Oilers, at home before an official sellout crowd. And to paraphrase Shakespeare, all of that sound and fury signifies, well, almost nothing.
For starters, despite winning two in a row, the Wild remains of the brink of mathematical elimination from the Western Conference playoff race. The good news of winning two in a row cannot undo all of the bad news delivered in a month that was dominated by an eight-game losing streak.
Secondly, beating Edmonton at home is not exactly news. Thursday's win was the 16th in a row the Wild has recorded in St. Paul versus the Oilers. Niklas Backstrom got the win in goal with 33 saves versus an Oilers team that has clearly not quit despite a solid hold on the cellar in the West, and the fact that Thursday was their 11th consecutive loss. For Backstrom, the win gave him a 14-0-0 all-time home record versus Edmonton.
"He stands on his head a lot when he's playing against us, and that's why he's a great goalie," said Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert. The Bloomington native had a goal and an assist, but it was not enough to get Edmonton a win versus the team's chief nemesis. "He's tough to beat. We gave ourselves a lot of opportunities and back-door plays and he covers the net as well as anyone in the league."
In the other net, Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin had to think that perhaps his team had turned on him, at least early on. Less than eight minutes into the game, the Wild had ignited the home crowd by taking a 2-0 lead, with both goals banking over the red line by deflecting off Oilers skates. It was the latest bit of bad luck in Minnesota for the Oilers, and the latest fortunate bounces for the Wild, who are clearly in the Oilers' heads
"I think there is a psyche to it. I really do," said Wild coach Todd Richards. "It's almost one of those things where you're waiting for bad things to happen just because of the way things have gone in the past with playing in a certain building."
With the Wild finally getting a win at home - the team's first since March 8 - there were at least some smiles in the home dressing room. For a few moments anyway, there was reason for some optimism, even though mathematical elimination from the playoff race still looms for a team that's had a solid lock on 11th place in the West for weeks.
"That stint we went through was really tough on all the guys mentally," said Brad Staubitz, who scored to give the Wild a 3-0 lead in the second period. "That was something we needed as a group, a good team win like that. (Backstrom) was kickin', all lines were contributing. I think it was good for us."
Still, the optimism from a glance at the scoreboard is quickly tempered by a glance at the standings for a team that knows this is too little, and much too late.
"There's always that empty feeling," Richards said. "You win the game and you're happy you won the game but you always want more. From now until the end of the year that's the way I'm going to feel. Hopefully everyone else feels the same way."
There are two home games remaining. The next chance for a bittersweet home win comes Saturday afternoon when the Tampa Bay Lightning visits St. Paul.