Wild Win Home Opener With Help From Second Period Outburst
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Mikko Koivu said he was nervous before Minnesota’s home opener. It didn’t show.
Koivu scored two of Minnesota’s four power-play goals and the Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers at home for the 14th straight time, 4-2 on Thursday night.Antti Miettinen and Matt Cullen each had a goal and an assist for Minnesota, which tied the longest current home winning streak against a team. Nashville has beaten Columbus 14 straight times in Tennessee.
Niklas Backstrom stopped 24 shots to improve to 12-0-0 with a 1.16 goals-against average lifetime at home against the Oilers. Minnesota is 9-0-1 in home openers, winning the last nine.
Wild players said the numbers are nice, but they are more satisfied with how they bounced back in their first game this season in North America. Minnesota gained just one of four points last week against Carolina in two games in Helsinki.
“You always have to be desperate to get wins,” Koivu said. “I think we were tonight and it worked for us.”
Dustin Penner and Minnesota native Tom Gilbert scored for Edmonton, which has scored more than two goals just once during the St. Paul losing streak and has been outscored 50-18.
“As a pro, you need to come in and think you’ll be victorious,” Penner said.
With Minnesota trailing 2-1, Koivu was all alone at the left edge of the crease for an easy tip of a pass from Cullen at 14:31 of the second period. With Edmonton’s Jim Vandermeer in the penalty box for an interference call 2 seconds after the ensuing faceoff, Koivu was credited with his second goal 52 seconds later after a goalmouth scramble in which Edmonton’s Ladislav Smid appeared to accidentally knock the puck past Nikolai Khabibulin with his skate as the defenseman tried to clear Andrew Brunette out of the crease.
Until that stretch, coach Todd Richards was not thrilled with the Wild’s performance in the second period.
“We were standing around watching a lot of the period. But our power play stepped up and the guys that you need had the opportunities,” Richards said. “That really switched the momentum around and got the crowd back into the game.”
Cullen’s slap shot went off Gilbert’s skate and into the Edmonton net for another power-play goal 7:37 into the third.
Seven of Minnesota’s eight goals this season have come with the man advantage. Edmonton was successful on all nine of its penalty kills in its first two games, wins over Calgary and Florida.
“They got pucks to the net, got bodies there. You can’t expect your goalie to make all the saves all the time,” Gilbert said. “They caught us running around a little bit and they got guys that can make a lot of passes and that’s exactly what they did.”
Edmonton coach Tom Renney said there is plenty of blame to go around, not just the defensemen.
“Penalty-killing starts in your own end, and there’s a centerman that’s got to win a draw, and I had one guy over 50 percent tonight,” Renney said. “We had a difficult time in our own end tonight for the first time in three games.”
Miettinen gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal midway through the opening period, tipping in a feed from Brunette.
Penner tied it on a power play early in the second, taking a feed from Ales Hemsky near the top of the slot and putting it between Backstrom’ pads. It was Penner’s second goal in two games.
Gilbert, who grew up about 15 miles from the arena, scored on a slap shot to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead midway through the second.
NOTES: Wild D Marek Zidlicky played his first game of the season. He missed the first two games because of a groin injury. … Minnesota has scored four power-play goals at home seven times in franchise history. … Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff are the only Oilers who were with the team when it last won in Minnesota. … Minnesota C John Madden, Edmonton C Colin Fraser and Oilers assistant coach Steve Smith received their Stanley Cup rings Thursday. Madden scored once for Chicago last season, Fraser seven times and Smith was a scout.