ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom ended a six-start winless streak, beating his favorite opponent in the Wild’s 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
Defenseman Tom Gilbert and Linus Omark each had power-play goals — a rarity for Edmonton’s struggling special teams unit — but the last-place Oilers fell to 0-8-3 in their last 11 games.
Antti Miettinen, Marek Zidlicky, Brad Staubitz and Martin Havlat scored for Minnesota. Backstrom has never lost to the Oilers, improving to 14-0 in his career against them.
With both teams out of the playoff picture — the Oilers were never in it this season — this game was all about streaks. The Wild beat Edmonton at home for the 16th time in a row, matching the longest current run of consecutive home wins against one team in the NHL. They’ve outscored the Oilers 58-21 during the stretch.
Nikolai Khabibulin started his seventh straight game in goal for Edmonton without a win, his last coming on Feb. 17. He was unlucky at first, with Miettinen’s goal glancing of Ladislav Smid’s skate, and Zidlicky’s hitting off Jeff Petry’s in a span of 35 seconds midway through the first period.
Khabibulin made two sprawling saves in a row that period, too, when John Madden and Chuck Kobasew fired short-handed rebounds at him from close range following a rush by Madden. But Staubitz chipped one off the post and around Khabibulin in the second period for the bruiser’s second goal all season. Then Havlat zipped a slap shot past his glove for a 4-0 lead late in the middle frame.
This late-season tilt between division foes was one of those try-not-to-get-hurt games, but Miettinen took a face-first spill into the boards on a cross-check by Jim Vandermeer, shortly after a four-minute high-stick penalty on Miettinen. There were other mini-scuffles that broke out, too, though no serious injuries were apparent.
NOTES: Oilers rookie Chris Vande Velde, a high school star in Moorhead, Minn., played his first pro game in his home state. … Gilbert, of Bloomington, is also a Minnesotan. Cullen, from Moorhead, notched his 500th career point and ranks eighth in NHL history in scoring by Minnesota natives. Phil Housley is the leader. … Gilbert scored for the first time in 49 games since Dec. 10. … Brent Burns had an assist and set a Wild record for most points in a season by a defenseman with 44, besting his and Zidlicky’s previous marks of 43. Burns has 16 goals and 28 assists, but the All-Star went all 13 games in March without scoring. … Havlat leads the Wild with 22 goals.
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