Trained killers: Wild frustrates Edmonton's power play, wins 4-1
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Ask any member of the Minnesota Wild what northern Alberta is like at this time of year, and they'll likely say it looks like the inside of a penalty box.
In the latest of a dozen road wins this season, the Wild took seven penalties but paid a very small price for all that malfeasance. Instead the Wild extended its road penalty killing streak to 20 in a row, and won an important Northwest Division game 4-1 in the home of the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers finally snapped the penalty kill streak in the final minutes of the game, scoring a power play goal after the Wild built a four-goal lead.
On a cold winter night when so much could've gone wrong for the Wild, having spent a good chunk of the first two periods down a man (and for nearly two full minutes, down two men), the Wild instead took an early 2-0 lead, got great defense and solid goaltending from rookie Anton Khudobin (who was within four minutes of his second consecutive shutout) and inched just a little bit closer to getting back into the playoff picture.
Khudobin, who has stopped 63 of 64 shots in the past two games in his unconventional flopping and sliding style, told FSN North's Kevin Gorg after the game that he's just trying to prove himself after spending much of his season catching flights between MSP and Houston. As the Wild dealt with the season-ending injury of Josh Harding in the preseason, it looked for a while like Khudobin would be tapped to back up Niklas Backstrom. Instead, general manager Chuck Fletcher signed free agent Jose Theodore, meaning more time for Khudobin deep in the heart of Texas. But with Backstrom and Theodore both shelved with injuries at various times this month, Khudobin is getting his chance.
"The goaltender was great. He was the difference in the game," Wild coach Todd Richards said. "As a group in front of him we didn't play very well, but he stood tall. Our penalty kill again was pretty good up until the end."
This is clearly a critical four-game road trip for the Wild, which has played its best hockey away from St. Paul. Starting off with a relatively lopsided win before a trip to Calgary for a date with the Flames less than 24 hours later was certainly exactly how the coach would've drawn it up.