EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — There was plenty of post-Olympic rust to go around, but none seemed to stick to Darcy Kuemper.
Kuemper made 21 saves to earn his second career shutout as the Minnesota Wild returned from the Olympic break on a winning note, defeating the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 Thursday night.
“We did a real good job, we were aware of the situation and everyone was focused tonight,” Kuemper said. “It was just a solid team game tonight. We had seven days of practice. You just use the first two practices to get the fundamentals back and then you worry about the next game. I stuck to my game and obviously the team played great in front of me.”
Mikael Granlund, Stephane Veilleux and Dany Heatley scored for the Wild, who won their third game in a row.
“I think that’s our biggest strength, to have a good defensive game,” Granlund said. “I thought we played good defensively and Kemps had a good game in net. We didn’t give them too much.”
Wild head coach Mike Yeo said his team played far from perfect, but they will take the win anyway.
“I don’t think that we played this game at the level that we headed into the break at and I think that’s normal,” he said. “I was impressed with the detail and the structure in a lot of areas, but I think our puck work can get a little better in some areas too.”
The Oilers have lost two in a row after winning five of their previous six.
“It was pretty embarrassing,” Edmonton forward David Perron said. “Nothing was going right for us. We couldn’t generate any offense and our defense wasn’t good. It was an awful game.”
It was the fifth time this season that the Oilers have been shutout at home and eighth time this season they have failed to score in a game.
“That’s not how we wanted to come back from the break at all. It seemed like there was a lot of rust on our team,” Oilers forward Taylor Hall said. “Whether that was the break or whatever, it doesn’t really matter. They had the same break that we did and we just didn’t play well.”
Oilers coach Dallas Eakins thought neither team really looked that good on their return to action following the long break.
“That was an ugly hockey game, I thought for both teams,” he said. “It was quite amazing watching this game the number of players falling down with nothing going on around them and passes going behind players.”
The game started with Oilers forward Matt Hendricks checking Wild defenseman Nate Prosser into the boards in the first minute of play. Prosser was helped to the dressing room and did not return until the second period.
Minnesota got revenge for the hit by taking a 1-0 lead a minute later when Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens was caught out of position, Zach Parise fed the puck in front and Granlund scored into an empty net.
Each team only accounted for six first-period shots apiece, with Edmonton’s best chance coming late when a high bounce flipped off of Kuemper’s back and landed in the crease before being sent to safety by Jared Spurgeon.
Kuemper made a big save seven minutes into the second when he was quick to come across and rob Jordan Eberle at the side of the net on the tail end of an Oiler power play.
Minnesota made it 2-0 midway through the second period when Erik Huala fought off Oiler Anton Belov behind the net to send a backhand to Veilleux and he blasted a one-timer from the top of the circle past Scrivens for just his second goal of the season.
The Wild took a three-goal lead midway through the third as Charlie Coyle made a nice play to swing out from behind the net and find Heatley in front, who lifted his 12th of the season over a sprawling Scrivens.
NOTES: The Wild return to the ice Friday night when they travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks. Edmonton plays the second game of a five-game homestand on Saturday against the Calgary Flames. … The Wild came into the game having won five of six and 14 of their last 17 against the Oilers, including seven of their last eight appearances in Edmonton. … Minnesota forward Mikko Koivu is reportedly close to returning from an ankle injury. … Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom returned from an abdominal injury dating to Jan. 30, serving as Kuemper’s backup. … It was Edmonton’s only home game this month. The Oilers last home date was on Jan. 29. … Oilers forward Nail Yakupov took a shot to the leg from teammate Justin Schultz in the third and did not return.
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