ST. PAUL -- With a brutal cold snap bringing the state to a freezing halt - temperatures dropped to -42 C here, and felt like -52 C with the wind chill - the headline in the St. Paul Pioneer Press said it all: "What'd you expect? It's Minnesota."
The sports sections in Edmonton might want to borrow that exact headline after the Oilers dropped their eighth straight road game to the Wild. A 5-1 loss? What'd you expect? It's Minnesota.
"I wasn't unhappy with the way we played. We controlled the game for a lot of the game, but we couldn't defend even-man rushes," said head coach Craig MacTavish, after the Oilers were met with another frosty reception at the Xcel Energy Centre. "The first one is a two-on-two that ends up a two-on-one; the second one is a three-on-three, the third one is a turnover where Bouchard gets another gift, the fourth one is a one-on-two that ends up a two-on-0 ... if you can't defend even-man rushes at this level you're going to lose hockey games."
It was still close midway through the third, but Minnesota erupted for three goals in the third period to break open a 2-1 game.
"Outside of the heinous defensive breakdowns and lapses on some of the plays, we battled hard. That's as hard as we've competed in a while.
"In spite of the loss, I think this could be a big step for us moving forward, the way we battled and competed. We did a lot of things well in the offensive zone, we were hard on the puck. We will do a better job (defensively), but we set a new standard for competitiveness."
That's the only consolation they'll take out of this one.
The Wild have owned this series lately, outscoring Edmonton 30-9 and trailing in only one game, falling behind 4-1 on Dec. 29, 2007, before coming back to win 5-4 in overtime.
"Tonight we just made too many defensive mistakes and they capitalized on them," said Kyle Brodziak. "That's what it came down to. We didn't capitalize on any of our chances and they did. I don't know what it is against them. It was close until late in the third, but we just couldn't get the job done."
Edmonton's offence, ranked 10th in the West, had no luck against Minnesota's defence, ranked first.
Tied 1-1 on goals by Minnesota's Krys Kolanos and Edmonton's Liam Reddox, the Oilers were gaining all kinds of steam midway through the first period, but Cal Clutterbuck scored one against the flow of play after back-to-back Oilers power plays netted nothing.
It was only 2-1 in the third, with Edmonton still very much in the game, when Sheldon Souray mishandled a puck in his own end, coughing it up to Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who made it 3-1 (virtually insurmountable against the Wild) at 8:21. Brent Burns and Eric Belanger turned it into a rout.
"We played hard, we battled hard and had some chances early, but we fell behind and this is a hard team to fall behind against," said Steve Staios. "The goals we gave up were quality chances, but overall I don't think we let them generate a lot."