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They may have three hotshots youngsters in Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle, but the Edmonton Oilers are still the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton had the chance to get up early on a Wild team that was simply taking too many penalties. Now, the legitimacy of the calls is debatable, but in reality, they didn't stop the behavior and kept marching to the box with three penalties in the first period and three in the second. Fortunately the Wild kill picked them up and the Oilers were only able to capitalize on one power play
Conversely, the Wild took advantage of the miscues by Edmonton and pounced for three power play goals in the first two periods to take a 3-2 lead, including Mikko Koivu twice on one pretty back-door feed from Matt Cullen and another on a scrum in front of the net that trickled past Nikolai Khabibulin. Sure, the Dustin Penner goal was pretty and the Tom Gilbert goal was a rocket that got past a screened Niklas Backstrom, but you never felt that Edmonton was going to put to foot on the throat.
However, the Wild survived their typical lull, to jump on the power play opportunities and the sellout crowd of 18,449 watched Mikko Koivu and Matt Cullen earn their new deals tonight, putting the game out of reach.
Tonight's win gave the Wild their 14th consecutive home win over Edmonton, and they improve to 9-0-1 in home openers, and gave them their seventh home game with four or more power play goals.That success on the power play and the penalty kill will have to continue if the Wild are going to fight for a playoff spot.
The season has finally begun. The crowd was into it, and four goals certainly helped. We'll see you Saturday for the Blue Jackets.
The Wild looked good tonight, and some members of the media were giving them credit with a full 60 minutes, but Todd Richards was quick to disagree. He said "I think we came out good in the first, but we came out slow in the second, for the first ten or fifteen minutes. Our power play certainly made up for that." He said that the special teams are the key to winning games, and that the Wild won that "game within the game."
Cullen played an amazing hockey game tonight, getting the goal and an assist. Richards pointed out when the coaches would ask "Who got that play, or who made that chance, it always came back that 7 (Cullen) was there." Clearly, his presence on the ice, and specifically his ability to win the big face off at the big moments is key, saying "It makes it a lot easier when you have the puck."
All in all, a good effort. Not a full 60 minute effort, but enough to pull out a win. A couple garbage goals in close, in the high percentage areas and the Wild pulled out four power play goals. The team defense played well, what the coach called "smart hockey," allowing the forwards to play their game, making everything click at the right time.
With the penalty kill saving the Wild's skin several times in the first period, holding the Oilers to just one power play goal on seven tries. This is clearly the result of bringing in some depth at the forward ranks and allowing four lines to roll, even when a man down. John Madden and Eric Nystrom both played very good defensive games, and contributed a major part of this victory.
So. An amazing power play effort, equaled by the penalty kill, a great game from the leaders of the team, including a 24 save performance from Niklas Backstrom who looked solid all night. Everything worked out for the Wild tonight, but the pessimist in me says that this effort against the Red Wings or Sharks, and the Wild get steam rolled. A good night, a win, still things to work on.
- Brent Burns didn't give up a goal in 24:12 TOI.
- The Wild power play went 4-6, thanks in part to Matt Cullen moving to the point on the power play unit.
- Tonight was Koivu's ninth two-goal game and 15th three-point game.
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars:
- Mikko Koivu (2 G, 1 A)
- Matt Cullen (1 G, 1 A)
- Antti Miettinen (1 G, 1 A)
- Can the Wild defense contain the high flying, high speed youngsters in the Edmonton offense? Yes, but really it's that the Edmonton offense stymied the Edmonton offense.
- With Zidlicky likely back in the line-up, does the defensive corps solidify? The Wild collapsed better, obstructed passing lanes and cleared the zone on the kill all night. Coaching? Zidlicky? Opponent? No Stoner? Who knows, but it was a great improvement.
- The Wild have always done well against young phenoms. Is Taylor Hall different? No. Hall was a non-factor, as was Eberle. Paajarvi was much more noticeable, but mainly because of his size and the penalties he drew.
- Can Niklas Backstrom continue his 12-0-0 record at home against the Oil? No, but he can GET TO 12-0-0 (Thanks to Ryan Stanzel for clearing that up).
- Will Clutterbuck put one in the net tonight? Nope.
- BONUS: Can the Wild put together a 60 minute effort? No, again they were really flat late in the first and early in the second.