Published January 13, 2015
Mikko Koivu made up for a frustrating stretch without a goal by Minnesota, scoring 9 seconds into the third period to snap a tie and spark the Wild to a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.
The Wild had an astounding 18-0 advantage in shots on goal in the second period, and the Oilers went 23:35 without a shot after Magnus Paajarvi's goal tied the game late in the first period. Minnesota outshot Edmonton 43-21 for the night, and goalie Niklas Backstrom raised his career record at home against the Oilers to 17-0. The Wild have won 19 of their last 20 games here against their orange-and-blue division rivals.
Jared Spurgeon and Charlie Coyle each had a goal and an assist, and Koivu contributed two assists. The 43 shots were a season best for the Wild.
They had a scare with 7:04 remaining when Koivu's pass behind the net skipped off Sam Gagner's skate and ricocheted toward the crease at defenseman Ryan Suter. The puck glanced off Suter's stick as he tried to swat it away and slid past Backstrom to pull the Oilers within 3-2.
But the Wild didn't flinch. On a power play after a goaltender-interference penalty by Jeff Petry, Koivu sent a slap shot up the middle that Dany Heatley deflected past goalie Devan Dubnyk.
The Wild improved to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games. They reached the three-goal mark for just the 10th time in 21 games this season and only the fifth time in 14 games since the beginning of February.
After the way the Wild dominated in the second period, it seemed only a matter of time that they'd breakthrough in the final frame. Spurgeon's centering pass to Coyle went off the rookie's stick at the wall and skipped toward Koivu as the third period began. Zach Parise helped clear space by sneaking in front of an Oilers defender, and Koivu's wrist shot found the back of the net a mere 9 seconds in.
Koivu pumped his arm and yelled with satisfaction.
Ten days ago, this game looked like it might boil over with bad feelings between these Northwest Division rivals. In Minnesota's 3-1 victory at Edmonton, Wild right wing Cal Clutterbuck was taken out with a low blow by Taylor Hall, one of the many young heralded skaters the Oilers have been waiting for to flourish. Hall was suspended for two games by the NHL for the major penalty he got in that game after kneeing Clutterbuck as they collided.
The Wild were angry about the hit, but there was hardly any fallout. Hall was out, for starters, because of a leg injury suffered in Friday's 4-2 loss at St. Louis. Mike Rupp jawed at Ladislav Smid once, and Devin Setoguchi pushed Smid down at the end of the second period, but there was hardly any physical play.
The Oilers are 1-2-1 on this nine-game road trip they started a week ago. They were outshot 30-17 by the Blues on Friday.
Spurgeon's second goal of the year gave the Wild the lead just 2:37 into the game, but the 5-foot-9 defenseman wouldn't have had the chance to set up his slap shot if it weren't for Setoguchi. The second-line right wing, who has played a lot better the last three weeks than the first three weeks of this shortened season, dived between Oilers forwards Chris VandeVelde and Ben Eager to keep a puck alive in the offensive zone with only one hand on the end of his stick.
Setoguchi was able to flick it right to Spurgeon, who wound up for the score.
The Oilers didn't get a shot on goal until more than 7½ minutes elapsed in the game, and Wild controlled the pace of play in the first period, just as they did in the middle frame. But Paajarvi equaled the score with 2:02 left before the first intermission with a second-chance poke past Backstrom. The first try was blocked by Backstrom but sent right back to Paajarvi, who slid the putback attempt past the goalie's right leg.
Paajarvi was a healthy scratch the last two games. The 21-year-old, who was drafted in the first round in 2009, has three goals this season.
NOTES: The last time the Wild held an opponent without a shot on goal for an entire period was March 31, 2009, against Vancouver, a game they lost 2-1 in overtime. ... Oilers D Nick Schultz made his first appearance at Xcel Energy Center since the Wild traded their blue-line cornerstone a little more than a year ago for D Tom Gilbert.