Jordan Eberle scored twice as the Oilers snapped a four-game losing streak by beating the Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Thursday night in their last game before turning Rexall Place over to the World Junior Championship.
Ryan Smyth and Lennart Petrell also scored for the Oilers (15-16-3), who had won just two of their last 11. But the Wild (20-11-5) are in an even bigger funk -- they've dropped six in a row and were swept during this week's three-game trip to Western Canada. Dany Heatley's third-period goal did nothing more than spoil Nikolai Khabibulin's shutout bid.
"We just weren't ready at the start and it cost us the game," Minnesota forward Kyle Brodziak said. "I think we have to take a look in the mirror and make sure we are better from here on out. It hasn't been good enough. It's not fun right now."
The win was a relief to the Oilers, who don't play another home game until Jan. 11.
"It eases your mind," center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "We can take this momentum forward."
After the Oilers dodged an early bullet when Clayton Stoner rang a shot off the post a minute into the game, Eberle opened the scoring at 15:57 with a terrific individual effort. He stopped a clearing attempt during an Oilers power play, toe-dragged his way around a defender and fired a wrister past Niklas Backstrom for his 14th goal of the season.
"It's important to have that kind of confidence," coach Tom Renney said of Eberle's increasing confidence in his offensive skills. "Those are special plays by special players."
Smyth made it 2-0 at 18:36 by whacking away at the rebound of his own wraparound to dislodge it from Backstrom's skate and nudge it into the net. It was his 14th of the season but first in 12 games.
Backstrom made 18 saves -- including one on Taylor Hall's penalty shot with 12 seconds left in the period -- to keep the Wild within two at intermission.
Petrell's one-man effort made it a 3-0 game at 1:40 of the second. He stripped Jeff Taffe, moved into the high slot and picked the top corner past Backstrom's glove with a slapper for a shorthanded goal. Erberle's backhander from the slot at 2:56 put the Oilers up by four -- and eight minutes into the middle period, Edmonton had as many goals as Minnesota had shots.
"Confidence is a powerful thing in this game," Eberle said of his two-goal night.
Minnesota had a chance to get into the game early in the third when Petrell was assessed a checking from behind major for shoving Marek Zidlicky as he was going into the boards.
"I feel bad for Marek and the way he went into the boards," Petrell said. "From my point of view he might have caught an edge because I didn't feel it was much contact."
The Oilers killed off the long power play, only to have Heatley score his 10th of the season at 7:57, seven seconds after it expired.
Few teams are happer to reach the Christmas break than the injury-riddled Wild, who are 0-4-2 in their last six after a seven-game winning streak that carried them to the top of the NHL standings.
"It's very apparent that we've got a long way to go," said a furious coach Mike Yeo, whose team scored just two goals in the three losses in Western Canada this week.
"We have to understand that the League gets tougher. As the year goes on, teams get better. We better not only be keeping pace but setting the pace. This trip was a step back."
Material from team media was used in this report
|PPG - Jordan Eberle (14) ASST: NONE|
1 - 0 EDM
|Ryan Smyth (13) ASST: Ladislav Smid (3), Tom Gilbert (11)|
2 - 0 EDM
|SHG - Lennart Petrell (3) ASST: NONE|
3 - 0 EDM
|Jordan Eberle (15) ASST: Corey Potter (7), Ryan Whitney (3)|
4 - 0 EDM
|Dany Heatley (10) ASST: Matt Cullen (12), Jared Spurgeon (13)|
4 - 1 EDM
|Warren Peters Hooking against Ben Eager|
|Darcy Hordichuk Interference on goalkeeper against Niklas Backstrom|
|Clayton Stoner Tripping against Ryan Nugent-Hopkins|
|Justin Falk Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Ben Eager Boarding against Cal Clutterbuck|
|Pierre-Marc Bouchard Too many men/ice - bench|
|Sam Gagner Hi stick - double minor against Pierre-Marc Bouchard|
|Lennart Petrell Checking from behind (maj) against Marek Zidlicky|
|Lennart Petrell Game misconduct|