It stands to reason that teams that take advantage of odd-man rushes will have a much better shot at winning the game. That’s exactly what happened when the Minnesota Wild (17-12-3) faced the Edmonton Oilers (14-17-2) on Saturday afternoon.
Except the Wild were on the losing end of things.
The Oilers scored twice after 2-on-1 opportunities for a 3-2 victory to snap the Wild’s four-game winning streak.
“The thing about giving up odd man rushes is when you’re ahead of them and you let them pass you, it’s pretty irritating,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau.
The Oilers went up 1-0 and 3-1 in the game with odd-man rush plays. In the third, Jesse Puljujarvi scored off his own rebound on a pass from Milan Lucic for a two-goal lead which was enough for the victory. Lucic also scored the second goal of the game.
Still, the Wild (17-12-3) are 12-5-1 since Nov. 9. The loss to the Oilers was their first in regulation on home ice since Nov. 14.
On the Wild side of the ice, they were heavily outplayed to start the first period, getting outshot 10-1 at the halfway point of the first 20 minutes. Once they settled in, they started getting chances.
A few came off the stick of center Mikko Koivu.
The game marked No. 60 against Edmonton in Koivu’s career. He came in with a whopping 45 points, the most he’s scored against any team. Even those confidence-boosting stats couldn’t help Koivu break out of his current slump though. With another game off the scoresheet, Koivu hasn’t scored a goal in 23 games and hasn’t recorded a point in the past 10 games.
Koivu, with just four goals and 11 assists this season, agreed it’s been a frustrating stretch for him offensively.
“But I think when you’re winning it’s a lot easier,” Koivu said. “Like tonight when you don’t score on those chances and when you lost the games, obviously that’s when it gets frustrating when you’re not able to help the team.”
He certainly had some opportunities to score.
Koivu was really snakebit with some good chances in the second period. Just after one of his scoring chances, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins then broke the scoreless tie with a shorthanded goal off a two-on-one rush in the middle of the second.
Down 1-0, the Wild came right back. This time, Koivu’s redirection hit the pipe in one of those how-did-that-not-go-in kind of plays. He’s encouraged he’s getting the chances, at least.
“All we can do is create and get in there and find a way,” Koivu said. “It’s not an easy thing to do in this league, and sometimes you go through stretches that you’re not scoring. And all you can do is get ready for the next one and make sure you’re ready when you get a chance.”
Boudreau has said multiple times during the Koivu drought that the team captain is about due for a goal.
“I’m sure he’s frustrated,” Boudreau said. “He’s a guy that has a lot of pride, and he is a really good player.”
And even if the scoring isn’t there, Koivu is still competing hard and defending, Boudreau said. As evidence, Koivu cleared a loose puck in front of goalie Alex Stalock that would have been an easy tally for the Oilers.
After Saturday’s game, Boudreau mentioned that Koivu had just six goals at this time last season, so from that standpoint, it’s not a huge difference.
“But I mean, I know it’s wearing on him,” Boudreau said.
Even without Koivu’s help on the scoreboard, defenseman Matt Dumba picked up the slack, scoring both goals for the Wild on similar plays – snipes from the high slot. He tied the game 1-1 about four minutes after the Oilers got on the board in the second, then he made it a one-goal game with 5 minutes left in regulation.
The goals were Dumba’s fourth and fifth of the season. It’s his second career multi-goal game and first since March 3, 2015. Dumba also has seven points in the past 10 games this season.
The Wild outshot the Oilers, 31-29. That alone isn’t noteworthy, but Stalock recorded a franchise-first for the Wild with a shot on goal in the third period. As the Wild killed their fifth penalty of the game, Stalock gloved the puck in his net, then skated out, dropped the puck and slapped it an estimated 167 feet down the ice and on goal.
It’s the first time in Wild history a goaltender has registered a shot on goal. He’s the second goaltender in the NHL this season to record a shot. Chicago’s Corey Crawford had one Oct. 10 in Montreal.
The loss in net for Stalock also halted his shutout streak he’s carried, which ended up being 115:09.
Stalock (5-4-1) with 26 saves. Cam Talbot (11-10-1) with 29 saves.
A scary moment in the final minute of the first period when Jason Zucker went down to the ice after taking a Ryan Suter slapshot to the knee. He hobbled to the bench and was helped down the tunnel, but he returned to play the rest of the game from the second period on.
Even with a lot of trips to the box all game long, no one scored on the power play. The Wild went 0-for-4 while the Oilers went 0-for-6 and scored the shorthanded goal.
The Wild started both the second and third periods on the penalty kill after getting sent to the box with 4.5 seconds left in the first period and 15.1 seconds left in the second. They also took a penalty with 2:03 left in regulation.
Boudreau said after the game that it’s possible Jared Spurgeon would be back in the lineup Sunday, but “it’s still day-to-day.”
The Wild hit the road for four games starting Sunday night in Chicago for the second half of back-to-back.