Safe to come home

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- After three straight losses on the road, it was time for the Edmonton Oilers to go big or go home.

Actually, it was more like go big or go home with their tails between their legs.

They were going home anyway, but had they coughed up another game last night in Minnesota, it would have been one frosty reception back in Edmonton. When fans have been shovelling at home all week, they don't want to see their team getting swept on the road.

"The new guys we got are settling in and everyone came up big tonight," said Ryan Smyth, who paced the way offensively with a goal and an assist in the Oilers' 2-1 victory. "Now, it's just a matter of keeping it going. We've got some big games in front of us and this (win) is going to help with the momentum, that's for sure."

It helped a lot of things. It stopped the bleeding, it slid the team back into the top eight, it got the gorilla off Dwayne Roloson's back and let all of them head back to Edmonton on something of a positive.

"There was a lot riding on this game for this team," said Roloson, who was very good in a 30-save effort. "It was a huge win for us. We have to take it and use it to create something good here, try to make a snowball effect and keep on building momentum.

"You have to give a lot of credit to the guys; on the five-on-fours and five-on-threes they were blocking a lot of shots. I give them a lot of credit for pulling this one out."

And they, him.

"He's starting to settle in," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "He made some great saves tonight. They were shooting from everywhere on him and he made some big saves."

Roloson and MacTavish said it was just a case of knocking off the rust and getting comfortable.

"Even a guy with as much experience as Dwayne, it takes a while to get comfortable," said MacTavish. "You get out of your routine. Having been traded at about the same age as he is now, I know it's a little unsettling."

One win in four games is small consolation after losing 5-2 in San Jose, 4-3 in overtime in Columbus and 4-3 to these same Wild on Sunday, but ooooh, it beats the alternative.

"We haven't had too many trips this year below .500," said MacTavish. "Three points out of four games isn't a total disaster."

In a game neither team could afford to lose, Edmonton struck first. After Minnesota hit the post and had another goal disallowed, Chris Pronger's point shot made it 1-0 midway through the first. They went up 2-0 on Smyth's rebound, his 31st goal of the season, in the second period.

Three minutes into the third, Edmonton's soft spot all trip, Kurtis Foster cut the deficit to 2-1, pouncing on a loose puck in the crease.

After that it was nail-biting time. Edmonton killed of a penalty to Shawn Horcoff in the last four minutes and a last-second scramble that almost stopped MacTavish's heart.

"We were thinking we'd give ourselves 10 seconds of breathing easy," he said. "But right down to .6 seconds of just terror."

And now, the easy part of the schedule is over. After four straight against teams that aren't currently holding down playoff spots, they return home to face Calgary and Detroit before three in a row against Vancouver.

"When you're not having success on the road, you want to try something else," said MacTavish.

"We played pretty well, the four games after the break, at home."

LATE HITS ... Rookie defenceman Matt Greene got into a spirited first-period scrap with former Oiler Alex Henry and Georges Laraque had an even bout with 6-7, 270-pound Derek Boogard ... Ty Conklin, Rem Murray, Dick Tarnstrom, Igor Ulanov and Marc-Andre Bergeron were the scratches last night.


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