Myers: Wild's home domination of Oilers continues and goals follow
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The NHL's proposed division realignment plan is seen by nearly everyone as a positive for the Minnesota Wild.
Gone will be the seemingly every other week's long flights to and from the West Coast and the divisional games that start either an hour or two later than Minnesotans are used to.
In their place will be a kind of Norris Division reunion. No more Canucks and Flames. Hello Jets, Blackhawks, Blues, Stars and a few other familiar, relatively nearby opponents.
There's just one drawback: fewer visits by the Edmonton Oilers.
Three decades ago, pro hockey fans in Minnesota showed up in big numbers to see the Oilers for names such as Messier, Gretzky, Coffey, Fuhr and Kurri. Today, Wild fans come out to see the Oilers because the numbers say that it will almost always mean a win by the home team.
The numbers didn't lie again on Sunday.
While a 4-2 score doesn't exactly scream "blowout," a closer look at the win that improved the Wild to 19-1-0 in their last 20 home games against Edmonton shows near-total domination by the home team.
In fact, for more than 20 minutes, it was the definition of total domination.
In the second period on Sunday, the Wild outshot the Oilers 18-0, marking just the third time in franchise history that the Wild had held an opponent without a shot in a period.
Still, the game was in doubt when the third period started and the teams were tied at 1.
It took captain Mikko Koivu less than 10 seconds to change that, as he gave the Wild a lead they wouldn't relinquish on the period's opening shift.
"I really liked the start of our game, and I really liked the finish, and I really liked the part in between, too," Wild coach Mike Yeo said, smiling. "That was a solid game. One of the most impressive things to me was the way we came out with the right focus in the third period.
It was a night that started with fan-fueled dreams of on-ice revenge.
Ten nights earlier, late in a 3-1 win in Edmonton, Oilers forward Taylor Hall blindsided Cal Clutterbuck at center ice, prompting howls for Mike Rupp or Zenon Konopka -- the Wild's two most talented players when work without gloves is needed -- to exact a measure of vengeance.
In a move that shocked absolutely nobody, Hall suffered a mysterious hamstring injury on Friday night in St. Louis and didn't dress for Sunday's game. He was seen in the press box in a nice suit. He notably was not limping, so we can assume that the hamstring is getting better quickly.
Yeo said the plan all along, whether Hall dressed or not, was to just play hockey.
"We were going to do that anyway, to be honest with you," Yeo said. "We want to play physical on everybody's top players, no matter who it is. This game for us was about getting two points."
And after an uneven start that prompted much noise about a potential coaching change, those two points are coming with much more regularity recently. The Wild improved to 7-3-1 in their last 11 on Sunday and are clicking by all accounts.
"I think we're starting to realize what kind of team we can be when we put together a full 60 minutes," said defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who opened the scoring with his second goal in three games. "We're just trying to get to our game as fast as we can and get pucks on net as well."
Although before this club gets too confident, it was worth reminding Yeo that a trip to Chicago to face the ridiculously still-undefeated Blackhawks (who improved to 19-0-3 with a win over the Red Wings on Sunday) looms on Tuesday.
Not even that challenge could deter the Wild's suddenly abundant optimism -- perhaps in part because one of the Blackhawks' three overtime/shootout losses was versus the Wild in St. Paul.
"I love it," Yeo said. "I'm excited about it, but it's going to be a good one. We just have to play our game, and we're a darn good team, too."
If nothing else, this is the normal emotional lift the Wild get from playing, and (always) beating Edmonton at home.
Enjoy it while it lasts.