Goalie Niklas Backstrom ended a six-start winless streak, making 33 saves to beat his favorite opponent as the Wild defeated the Oilers 4-2 on Thursday night -- ending a four-game home losing streak in which they were outscored 22-8.
Backstrom, who made 33 saves, has never lost to the Oilers -- he's now 14-0 against them. The Wild beat Edmonton at home for the 16th straight time, matching the longest current run of consecutive home wins against one team in the NHL. They've outscored the Oilers 58-21 during the stretch.
Backstrom shrugged off that success.
"For me I don't really think about it," Backstrom said. "I think I try to approach every team the same way. It doesn't matter who we play against."
Wild coach Todd Richards, though, had a theory.
"I think there is a psyche to it. I really do," he said. "It's almost one of those things where you're waiting for bad things to happen just because of the way things have gone in the past with playing in a certain building."
Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert offered his own view.
"We're just not getting the bounces here," he said. "Obviously it's a tough start when two goals go off your own skate. It's tough to come back from that."
Gilbert and Linus Omark each had power-play goals -- a rarity for Edmonton's struggling man-advantage unit -- but the last-place Oilers fell to 0-8-3 in their last 11 games.
"He stands on his head a lot when he's playing against us, and that's why he's a great goalie," Gilbert said of Backstrom. "He's tough to beat. We gave ourselves a lot of opportunities and back-door plays, and he covers the net as well as anyone in the league."
Nikolai Khabibulin lost his seventh consecutive start -- he's winless since Feb. 17. He was unlucky at first, with Antti Miettinen's goal glancing of Ladislav Smid's skate, and Marek Zidlicky's hitting off Jeff Petry's in a span of 35 seconds midway through the first period.
The Oilers continue to play hard, though they've lost several of their top scorers -- including No. 1 draft pick Taylor Hall -- with season-ending injuries.
"We're not packing it in," coach Tom Renney said. "We're not quitting in any games. We're not quitting in a single period, and we're not quitting in a shift. As much as that seems like cosmetic surgery, it's real. If you're going to redefine your team and you're going to rebuild an organization, you'd better start with that first and foremost."
"You can only imagine what this would look like if we had some other players here," Renney said. "We don't. We're not going to dwell on it. This is it, and that's that."
Brad Staubitz and Martin Havlat also scored for Minnesota, which has won two in a row since an eight-game winless streak that ended all hope of a playoff spot.
"That stint we went through was really tough on all the guys mentally," Staubitz said. "That was something we needed as a group, a good team win like that."
But as nice as the win was for the Wild, it came with the knowledge that summer vacation, rather than a trip to the playoffs, is right around the corner.
"There's always that empty feeling. You win the game and you're happy you won the game, but you always want more," Richards said. "From now until the end of the year that's the way I'm going to feel. Hopefully everyone else feels the same way."
Material from team media was used in this report
|PPG - Antti Miettinen (15) ASST: Matt Cullen (27), Andrew Brunette (26)|
1 - 0 MIN
|Marek Zidlicky (7) ASST: Pierre-Marc Bouchard (23), Kyle Brodziak (19)|
2 - 0 MIN
|Brad Staubitz (2) ASST: Eric Nystrom (7), John Madden (13)|
3 - 0 MIN
|Martin Havlat (22) ASST: Chuck Kobasew (6), Brent Burns (28)|
4 - 0 MIN
|PPG - Tom Gilbert (6) ASST: Ryan Jones (6), Magnus Paajarvi (18)|
4 - 1 MIN
|PPG - Linus Omark (4) ASST: Tom Gilbert (20), Jim Vandermeer (12)|
4 - 2 MIN
|Theo Peckham Tripping against Andrew Brunette|
|Jordan Eberle Slashing against John Madden|
|Antti Miettinen Hi stick - double minor against Ryan Jones|
|Theo Peckham Roughing against Pierre-Marc Bouchard|
|Pierre-Marc Bouchard Slashing against Theo Peckham|
|Jim Vandermeer Cross checking against Antti Miettinen|
|Chris VandeVelde Holding against Martin Havlat|
|Antti Miettinen Hi-sticking against Theo Peckham|
|Mikko Koivu Tripping against Ryan Jones|
|Kyle Brodziak Hooking against Linus Omark|
|Brent Burns Slashing against Gilbert Brule|
|Ladislav Smid Interference against Matt Cullen|
|Gilbert Brule Tripping against Cal Clutterbuck|