Shootouts have been the Achilles heel for Niklas Backstrom throughout his five seasons in the NHL. But after being beaten three times by Ottawa in a tiebreaker on Tuesday, Backstrom stepped up and refused to lose this one.
Devin Setoguchi scored in the fourth round of the shootout, spoiling a strong night by Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin and giving the Wild a 2-1 victory Thursday night -- Minnesota's 17th consecutive victory against the Oilers at the Xcel Energy Center.
"I was really happy for him," said coach Mike Yeo, who walked to the end of the bench and patted Backstrom on the back before the shootout began.
"It looked like he said, 'You're not beating me. You're not beating me this time."'
Backstrom gave up a goal in the first round to Jordan Eberle before stopping three straight attempts to seal the win. After going 0-for-3 in the loss at Ottawa on Tuesday, Backstrom improved his career record in those situations to 13-25. He's 2-9 in his last 11 shootouts -- but 19-2-1 in his career against the Oilers, including 15-0 at home.
"To be honest, when I go to the game I don't think about the shootout. I think about 60 minutes. That's the only thing that matters to us," he said.
The Wild had to work just to get to a shootout against Khabibulin, who was almost perfect and got the Oilers a point even though they were outshot 14-1 in the third period. Matt Cullen, who had the only goal for Minnesota in regulation, scored first in the shootout before Khabibulin denied the next two shooters.
Ryan Smyth had the lone goal for the Oilers, who got a point for just the third time during the losing streak in St. Paul. The Oilers also lost all six meetings to Minnesota last season, getting outscored 23-9.
"I thought tonight was the night, but I guess we have to wait until next time," said Khabibulin, who finished with 34 saves.
"Awesome. He gave us a chance to win," Smyth said.
The speedy Oilers controlled the tempo in the first period and took the lead when Smyth set up just outside the crease and backhanded the rebound of Eric Belanger's shot behind Backstrom.
The Wild tied it midway through the second period on a slick 2-on-1 move by Cullen. He faked a pass in the slot to Guillaume Latendresse, who drew defenseman Tom Gilbert to him. Cullen opted to shoot and beat Khabibulin with a high wrister for his third goal in four games this season.
Other than that, Khabibulin was flawless. He stoned Setoguchi in the second period and Marco Scandella in overtime, both on breakaways.
"It's kind of positive affirmation, I guess, that you're doing the right things and that our game can be really good," Cullen said when asked if the Wild got frustrated. "Anytime we've done that so far in this young season we've been really effective, and it's a confidence booster for us."
Yeo said he sensed on the bench that the Wild believed they would win.
"That's the way we want to play the game. I'd like to think their 'D' are pretty tired right now," he said.
The Oilers, who won their opener on Sunday by beating Pittsburgh 2-1 in a shootout, lost first-line forward Ales Hemsky with a shoulder injury 5 1/2 minutes into the game. That didn't help his linemates -- top draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and second-year left wing Taylor Hall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 Entry Draft.
"He was really flying around early," coach Tom Renney said of Hemsky. "That whole line was buzzing. He was really good tonight, and it's unfortunate he got hurt. The game was definitely different when he left."
Material from team media was used in this report
|Andy Sutton Cross checking against Brad Staubitz|
|Theo Peckham Slashing against Brad Staubitz|
|Brad Staubitz Slashing against Theo Peckham|
|Theo Peckham Interference against Brad Staubitz|
|Pierre-Marc Bouchard Too many men/ice - bench|
|Ryan Smyth Interference on goalkeeper against Niklas Backstrom|
|Guillaume Latendresse Roughing against Andy Sutton|
|Andy Sutton Roughing against Guillaume Latendresse|
|Greg Zanon Interference against Taylor Hall|
|Taylor Hall Hooking against Marco Scandella|