December 23, 2011
Oilers put down Wild
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Wild thing, I think they gloved you.
Right across the mouth.
The Edmonton Oilers spent their last game before the Christmas break doing unto others what others have been doing unto them for weeks -- slapping them silly.
They stormed the hapless Minnesota Wild from the opening faceoff, out-shooting them 20-3 in the first period and out-scoring them 4-0 in the first 23 minutes before invoking their own holiday mercy rule in a 4-1 victory Thursday night at Rexall Place.
"I didn't expect anything less than that, really," said Oilers rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. "I knew we were going to come out hard and put the puck on the net, and that's exactly what we did, 20 shots in the first period.
"We had some power plays that helped out with that, but for the most part we just came out really hard and wanted it really bad."
Indeed. In a battle of two teams that hadn't won in forever -- Minnesota was on a five-game losing streak and Edmonton was winless in four and 2-8-1 in their last 11 -- the Oilers were simply more determined to set things right.
The Wild, clearly not deep enough to withstand the absence of Devin Setoguchi, Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse, looked lifeless and horrid. That, combined with a desperate Oilers team that had been trending up in the last week, resulted in the very public spanking.
"It's nice to get the results, finally," said Jordan Eberle, who led the way with his 14th and 15th goals of the season. "That's the way you have to play, especially against a team like that that preys on turnovers. If we continue to shoot the puck, take a page out of Detroit's book, who knows, maybe they'll go in."
Out-shot 141-89 in their last four games, the Oilers promised their coach they'd shoot more and they made good on it early. They spent the entire first period in Minnesota's end and threw everything at the net, pounding shots at Nick Backstrom like the Wild netminder owed them money. Eberle's goal at 15:57 and Ryan Smyth's first in 12 games at 18:36 made it 2-0 at the intermission.
"That first period is exactly what we wanted to do, totally dictate the play," said defenceman Tom Gilbert, who logged 24:12 of ice time, 7:49 of it on the penalty kill. "This was their third game in four nights so we had to have a great start and that's what we did. It definitely feels good to put in an effort like this (Thursday night).
"We were playing pretty well the last couple of games and we knew that if we kept doing good things, we were going to get the bounces eventually."
The wave continued in the second period, when Lennart Petrell scored shorthanded and Eberle walked around Backstrom to make it 4-0 on the first two shots.
Eberle has 15 goals in his last 27 games after taking eight games to score his first.
"I've been watching him since back in junior and it's pretty incredible what he can do," said Nugent-Hopkins, who likes what the whole Oilers team can do when it sets its mind to it. "When we're on our game we can definitely play with anybody in the league. Its' good to see. Hopefully this momentum will carry over to the 26th against Vancouver."
Despite the 4-0 lead, the Oilers managed to make it interesting. They gave Minnesota almost eight straight minutes on the power play to start the third period (the last three minutes of Sam Gagner's double-minor for high-sticking, followed by Petrell's major and game misconduct for sending Marek Zidlicky into the boards head first).
But Nikolai Khabibulin and the penalty killers had it covered.
"They deserve a ton of credit," said Eberle. "They really won us that game."
LATE HITS: Ales Hemsky picked the wrong night to call in sick. He was listed as "not feeling well" and didn't play.