Wild down Oilers 4-3
Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency
|Minnesota Wild Jarod Palmer (79) and Matt Cullen (7) celebrate a goal by teammate Pierre-Marc Bouchard against Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (35) during the second period of their NHL hockey game in St. Paul, Minnesota, December 29, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Miller
MINNEAPOLIS - The Edmonton Oilers came back to rue opportunities squandered in a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
The Oilers were unable to capitalize on a couple of golden opportunities, then did nothing with a four-minute power play in the second period allowing the Wild back into the contest.
Mikko Koivu, Jarod Palmer, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Dany Heatley scored for the Wild, while Taylor Hall, Ladislav Smid and Shawn Horcoff countered for the Oilers.
Niklas Backstrom earned the victory in goal for the Wild, his 16th consecutive win over the Oilers at the Xcel Energy Centre. He has yet to lose to the Oilers at home in his career.
The Oilers did get to the Wild goaltender early, as Hall converted a great cross-ice feed from Jordan Eberle less than 90 seconds into the contest.
The Oilers had a couple of chances to increase their lead, none better than Ryan Smyth, who’ll have nightmares after failing to put the puck into an open net.
Smyth took a pass from Horcoff and slid a shot in behind Backstrom, but across the face of the net and past the far post.
Koivu tied the game later in the period, cutting around Horcoff then inside Tom Gilbert and snapping a shot past Nikolai Khabibulin.
In the second period, the Oilers had an opportunity to retake the lead when Koivu was assessed a double minor for high-sticking Horcoff in the face.
Despite the extended power play the Oilers were unable to retake the lead. Then shortly after Koivu was back on the ice, the Wild scored a pair of goals within 19 seconds to take control of the contest.
Palmer scored the first goal of his career, snapping a shot over the glove of Khabibulin on a two-on-one rush.
Bouchard added the Wild’s third, on a similar shot, beating Khabibulin on the short side.
The Wild broke in on the odd-man rush after the puck bounced over the stick of Theo Peckham. The previous two-on-one rush was a result of Colten Teubert unable to handle a pass along the boards from Corey Potter.
The Oilers cut into the lead later in the period as Smid snuck in from the points behind Brad Staubitz and converted a cross-ice feed from Hall.
Whatever momentum the Oilers gained from the goal was short-lived however as Heatley converted from in tight less than four minutes later to give the Wild a two-goal lead heading into the third period.
Despite heading into the contest on an eight-game losing skid, the Wild have yet to lose this year up going into the third period.
Horcoff made things interesting snapping a shot through Backstrom just under seven minutes into the period.
The Oilers captain had a chance to tie the game, but was unable to get his stick on a centring pass in front with Backstrom down on the play.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also had a quality opportunity, but fired the puck over the net after collecting it in the slot.
The Wild were able to hold off the Oilers despite taking a late penalty to snap their losing skid. The Oilers move on to face the New York Islanders Saturday in the next game of their current road trip.