The Minnesota Wild played its best hockey during a three-game road trip through western Canada Thursday.
Unfortunately, by the time it happened, the Edmonton Oilers built a 4-0 lead at Rexall Place.
After the Wild woke up and tilted the ice toward Oiler goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin just over six minutes into the second period, the Wild (20-11-5) held a 28-7 shots on goal advantage.
A big part of the Wild’s shots on goal advantage was the help of eight minutes and 49 seconds of power play, including 11 seconds of 5-on-3 and a major penalty.
The Wild management must have breathed a sigh of relief when Marek Zidlicky got up from a check from behind by Lennart Petrell, who earlier in the game scored a shorthanded goal. It could not stand to lose another with an injury.
Seven seconds after Petrell’s major penalty ended, Dany Heatley broke up the shutout by beating Khabibulin on the glove side with a wrist shot. Jared Spurgeon took the initial shot from the point that hit traffic and caromed to Heatley at the top of the circles. Matt Cullen also assisted on the goal.
The Wild showed no quit and had plenty of opportunities, but never really came that close to tying the game.
In the first 26 minutes of the game, the Oilers scored four goals, a 24-3 shots on goal advantage and substantially more offensive zone time.
Niklas Backstrom was under siege in that time, but he wasn’t beaten by the best scoring chances the Oilers had. He was beaten on the short-side from near the slot on the first goal. On the second goal, he got across the crease to stop a wrap around attempt, but had the second effort find its way into the net. The third goal was a half slap shot from the top of circles on a partial breakaway. On the fourth goal, he went down too early and allowed Jordan Eberle to go around him for an open net.
The Holiday break could not have come at a better time for the Wild. It hopes to get some of its top players back when it returns Monday against the Colorado Avalanche at the Xcel Energy Center.
No. 3 – Dany Heatley. The Wild forward scored a goal.
No. 2 – Nikolai Khabibulin. The Oiler goaltender stopped 30 shots.
No. 1 – Jordan Eberle. The Oiler forward scored two goals.
Minnesota 0 0 1 – 1
Edmonton 2 2 0 – 4
First Period – 1, Edmonton, Eberle 14 (unassisted), 15:56 (pp). 2, Edmonton, Smyth 17 (Smid, Gilbert), 18:36. Penalties – Peters, Min (hooking), 5:04; Hordichuk, Edm (goaltender interference), 8:10; Stoner, Min (tripping), 10:37; Falk, Min (delay of game), 15:11; Stoner, Min (tripping), 19:48 (penalty shot); Eager, Edm (boarding), 20:00.
Second Period – 3, Edmonton, Petrell 3 (unassisted), 1:40 (sh). 4, Edmonton, Eberle 15 (Potter, Nugent-Hopkins), 2:56. Penalties – Bench, Min (too many men), 10:29 (served by Bouchard); Gagner, Edm, double minor (high sticking), 19:03.
Third Period – 5, Minnesota, Heatley 10 (Cullen, Spurgeon), 7:57. Penalties – Petrell, Edm, major (checking from behind), 2:50 (served by Hordichuk); Petrell, Edm (game misconduct), 2:50.
Shots on goal – Minnesota 3-13-15 31. Edmonton 20-9-2 31.
Penalty Shot – Edmonton, Hall (saved).
Goalies – Minnesota, Backstrom (27-31. Oilers, Khabibulin (30-31). A – N/A. Referees – Stephane Auger, Dennis LaRue. Linesmen – Dan Schachte, Lonnie Cameron.