That feels much better

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

ST. PAUL -- They could win or they could, well, win.

Trailing the Minnesota Wild by five points in Western Conference standings, the Edmonton Oilers were basically out of options when they filed into the Xcel Energy Center last night, so they took the only one that would do and skated to a 2-1 win.

Losers of seven straight games to Northwest Division opponents and with just three wins in their last 11 games, the Oilers got the job done thanks to goals by Joffrey Lupul and Marc-Andre Bergeron and a 28-save dandy by Dwayne Roloson in one of their grittier efforts this season.

It was certainly one of the timeliest.

"This team needs to figure out how to win these tight games again and find its own identity again," said Shawn Horcoff.

"There's a big difference between three points back and seven.

"You know what it's like to try to pick up points in February and March. It's next to impossible. We had to keep pace here."

Stiffed them

With Craig Simpson, Charlie Huddy and Bill Moores running the bench in the absence of Craig MacTavish, the Oilers moved within three points of the Wild, as Roloson stiffed his old team silly and made Bergeron's power-play goal 11:45 into the second stand up.

Special teams played a big part, too, as the Oilers connected twice on five attempts while Minnesota's power play went 0-for-6, and is now on a slide that reads 2-for-40 in its last seven games.

"We played the game we had to play to win," said Roloson, who preserved the victory with a glove save on Brian Rolston in the dying seconds.

"We went out and grinded it out. We did the little things. We eliminated a lot of their quality scoring chances. We played a smart hockey game."

The Oilers came ready to rumble early. Matt Greene flattened Todd White, sending him to the dressing room. Raffi Torres clipped Mark Parrish with a high stick. Jan Hejda starched Kurtis Foster, knocking him out of the game. Jarret Stoll and Marian Gaborik exchanged words.

Add to that a 1-0 lead on a lucky goal by Lupul - his pass attempt on a power play bounced off Martin Skoula's skate and skipped behind Manny Fernandez at 17:31 - and the Oilers had the start they needed.

Not surprisingly, the Wild answered on the first shift of the second with six-foot-seven Derek Boogaard running around, twice flattening Hejda, and the momentum shifted.

A bench minor

The Oilers played a part in that, taking three straight penalties, including a bench minor for having too many men on the ice, that had the Wild storming Roloson.

Outshot 10-2 in the first 10 minutes of the period, Roloson hung in until Bergeron blew a slapper past Fernandez to make it 2-0.

"You have to be prepared mentally against these guys," Lupul said.

"They're probably the most patient team in the league.

"Tonight, we really went after them, especially in the first period.

"We came out banging and tried to establish ourselves."

Hemsky out ...

Ales Hemsky left the game 10 minutes into the second period after being run over by Boogaard and didn't return.

Word is Hemsky has a sore right shoulder - the same one that kept him out of the line-up - and was kept out as a precautionary measure. He'll be-reassessed today.

Around the rink ...

Tom Gilbert, a native of Minneapolis, played his second NHL game on the Oilers blueline, while Mathieu Roy was a healthy scratch ... With Yanic Perreault of Phoenix claiming No. 94 with the Western Conference team in the NHL All-Star game in Dallas Jan. 24, Ryan Smyth will wear jersey No. 93.


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