Nugent-Hopkins stars as Oilers snap 17-game losing streak vs. Wild
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
St. Paul, Minn. - In June, there was a huge stage at the far end of the Xcel Energy Center where, at the NHL Draft, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins walked onto that platform as the number one overall draft pick. On Friday afternoon, the Edmonton Oilers rookie made a splash in that end of the rink once again, scoring twice as the Minnesota Wild's five-game winning streak came to an end.
Down early, the Wild forged a 2-2 tie in the second period, but the Oilers scored the game's final three goals in a 5-2 win. It snapped a string of 17 consecutive home games that the Wild had won over Edmonton.
"As a team tonight, we didn't do enough to deserve to win the hockey game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We did things we shouldn't be doing and we didn't do things we should be doing. The result is what you saw."
Trailing early? Normally no problem for the Wild, which had won seven of their last 10 games that saw them on the short side of the scoreboard after 20 minutes. But there were alarming signs in the opening period, in which the Oilers grabbed a 2-0 lead by going hard to the net, and helping the Wild go hard to the penalty box.
Brad Staubitz spent 40 percent of the opening period in solitary confinement, taking a pair of four-minute penalties, and the Oilers went to, and into, the crease to get their first two goals. It frustrated the Wild, but afterwards the coach wanted to use Edmonton's success at the net as a lesson.
"That's why you go to the blue paint," Yeo said. "When you're there you have a chance, and they were much better in that area. We had a lot of good looks at the net tonight too, but we were kind of one and done. We need to find ways to get some of those secondary opportunities ourselves."
Setougchi scored late in the opening period with the Wild on a 5-on-3 power play, to pull them within 2-1. And the Wild tied the game midway through the second on a hard-working individual play by Bouchard. Nugent-Hopkins was coming up-ice with the puck, only to have his pocket picked from behind when Bouchard lifted his stick and grabbed the puck, then quickly turned to come in alone on the Oilers net.
Bouchard made a lateral move across the front of the crease, just enough to get Khabibulin to open a gap between the knees. That's where Bouchard poked the puck for his second goal of the season.
And beyond that point, it was all Edmonton. The miracle comebacks that the Wild, and their fans, had come to rely on, didn't happen on this holiday afternoon.
"Certainly we have been playing with fire, spotting teams the lead lately," Yeo said. "There have been a lot of nice stories about us coming back and keeping with our game, but that's something we have to definitely be better at."
The Oilers, who have had the top pick in the last two NHL drafts, are suddenly bettwe just abpout everywhere, and their young team speed versus some questionable defense by the Wild on Friday, showed. Meaning that road wins by the Oilers, and a good rivalry in the Northwest Division, might be a more common sight.
"We had a bit more trouble coming out of the D zone, and they're the real deal," said Wild defenseman Justin Falk. "Their young guys are skilled and they got on our mistakes and put the puck in the net."
With the game tied 2-2 in the third, and the sellout crowd sensing another come-from-behind win, the Oilers young stars shut things down in a hurry. A long shot by Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert caught Wild goalie Josh Harding up high, rendering him unable to control the rebound. And Taylor Hall was perfectly positioned to tap the loose puck into the Wild net, giving the Oilers a lead they wouldn't give up.
"Coming into tonight it was just a different feeling," said Gilbert, who played high school hockey at Bloomington Jefferson. "We were energetic about tonight and we dictated it from the start."
• 18,092: Attendance on Friday afternoon, giving the Wild just their second sellout of the season, and their first since the season opener.
• 1/06/2007: The last time the Oilers won a game in St. Paul.
• 3: Team-high third power play goal of the season scored by Setoguchi. It was also the Wild's first 5-on-3 goal this season.
• 24: Saves recorded by Harding, as he lost at home for the first time since Oct. 30, 2008.
Nobody on the ice for the Wild emerged worse for wear. The same cannot be said for those on the bench. When a third period loose puck sailed into the Wild bench, equipment manager Tony DaCosta was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The puck caught DaCosta between the eyes, and he was sporting four stitches after the game. He is not expected to miss any games.
Oilers - Ryan Smyth 12 (Eberle, Peckham), 5:15
Oilers - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 9 (Gagner, Belanger), 16:29, PPG
Wild - Devin Setoguchi 7 (Koivu, Spurgeon), 19:50, PPG
Wild - Pierre-Marc Bouchard 2 (unassisted), 9:00
Oilers - Taylor Hall 7 (Gilbert, Horcoff), 15:29
Oilers - Shawn Horcoff 7 (Hemsky, Hall), 7:28
Oilers - Nugent-Hopkins 10 (Eberle, Smyth), 18:37, ENG
Shots: Wild 13-6-13-32; Oilers 8-10-11-29. Saves: Wild, Josh Harding (24-28); Oilers, Nikolai Khabibulin (30-32). Power plays: Wild 1-for-4, Oilers 1-4.
1. Taylor Hall
2. Cal Clutterbuck
3. Nikolai Khabibulin
These "in-division home games versus teams from Alberta" affairs are so much fun, the Wild are going to do this again on Sunday, facing the Calgary Flames in St. Paul. It will be the Flames' first trip to Minnesota this season. They met earlier this month in Calgary, with the Wild winning 3-0.