He's good folks. Keep an eye on him.
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Don't let the score fool you. This is one of those games where the better team made the other look silly on the score board, but not so much on the ice. The Oilers did out play the Wild, of that you can be sure. However, the Wild had some spectacular chances, and just couldn't capitalize. Nikolai Khabibulin made some huge saves, and the Wild found themsleves in a hole they simply could not dig out of.
The first period belonged to the Oilers as they toyed with a sluggish Wild team. Brad Staubitz took two double minors trying to get Darcy Hordichuk to fight. In both instances, Staubitz made himself look really stupid as he dove onto Hordichuk laying on the ice. Say what you will about Hordichuk, but these were some seriously bad penalties for Staubitz to take.
The Oilers scored twice in the opening frame on goals from Ryan Smyth (which should have not been a goal due to Smyth being in the crease and on top of Harding when he scored) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Wild answered with a late goal from Devin Setoguchi, and the second period looked to be rather entertaining.
The Wild's most passive player, Pierre-Marc Bouchard stole the puck from the Holy Savior and triggered Khabibulin's recurring nightmares as Bouchard skated in all alone and tied the game. Hopefully they include that goal in "The Nuge's" Caqlder Trophy highlight reel. By the way... worst nick name in hockey. Terrible.
However, the Oilers would have none of the Wild leading, and Taylor Hall put in a Tom Gilbert shot that got away from Josh Harding as Shawn Horcoff created more trouble for the Wild. All night, Horcoff was given too much space to work, as though the Wild were afraid to hit him or even force him to make a play.
In the third, everyone in the building expected another comeback win, but it was not to be. Despite some solid chances for the Wild, as the period wound down, it was clear the Wild were tired, and the Oilers just had too much. When Horcoff scored the fourth goal as Justin Falk did his best Martin Skoula impression, it was fairly evident there would be no come back. The Holy Savior put in the empty netter and the Oilers capped off the 5-2 win.
Again, the Wild were not outplayed to the point the scoreboard showed. They played well, played the system, and they lost. That's going to happen. The Oilers brought a strong, fast, physical game, and they beat the Wild. No one wins them all.
A warning - be ready for talk of "regression" and how "unsustainable" the Wild's winning was. They lost, so that will only fuel the fire.
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouse Stars of the Game:
- Nikolai Khabibulin (30 saves)
- Shawn Horcoff (1G, 2A)
- Ryan Smyth (1G, 2A)
Remember, when you begin and end your night at Bennett's, you're the star! Easy parking, drink and food specials and a free shuttle to and from the Xcel Energy Center. Check them out at http://bennettschopandrailhouse.com/.
- Young offense, or young defense. Which one comes out on top today? This round goes to the young offense.
- The top line has seen some superb chances, can they capitalize? One goal, yes. They were good tonight, but just not good enough.
- Backstrom owns a controlling interest in the Oilers (not really), does Harding continue the pattern? Nope.
- That passive 1-4 forecheck... will anyone be awake? Still not sure where the 1-4 comes from, but hey, whatever.
- The Wild continue to fly below the radar. Any 51-year olds signed to bring some publicity? Not tonight. Though, knowing NHL.com, they will likely report that the Wild lost.