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Kuemper earns second shutout as Wild blank Oilers

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- It didn't take Mikael Granlund long to get back into the swing of things in the NHL following his successful run at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The center, who won a bronze medal with Finland, scored in his first game back from Russia, helping the Minnesota Wild to a 3-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Thursday.

Stephane Veilleux and Dany Heatley also scored for the Wild, who extended their winning streak to three games.

"Every goal is a big one, and it was a great pass by Zach (Parise), and I had an empty net to shoot at," Granlund said. "Obviously, you can feel it a little bit; it's a lot of flying and all the time changes. It takes a few days to get used to it. But I felt all right."

Granlund was more than all right in Sochi, where he scored three goals and added four assists.

Darcy Kuemper made 21 save to earn the second shutout of his career. The Oilers have been shut out in eight games this season, including five times at home. Ben Scrivens made 18 saves for the Oilers.

The game was the first for each team after the Olympic break, with the Wild looking the sharper of the two.

"We did a real good job, we were aware of the situation, and everyone was focused tonight," Kuemper said. "It was just a solid team game.

"We had seven days of practice. You just use the first two [practices] to get the fundamentals back, and then you worry about the next game. I stuck to my game, and obviously, the team played great in front of me."

Granlund scored at 2:04 of the first period on the Wild's first shot, converting a pass from Parise as the teams played 4-on-4.

The lead stood up through the first period as the Oilers struggled to find their skating legs, managing six shots in the period.

"That was an ugly hockey game," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "It was quite amazing early, the number of players falling, going down when nothing was going on around them, passes behind players. It was firmly two teams coming off a long break."

The Oilers' best chance in the first period came from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who fired a shot that bounced up over Kuemper but was cleared off the goal line by defenseman Jared Spurgeon.

In the second, Veilleux increased the Wild lead to 2-0 with his second goal of the season at 9:37. Veilleux took a pass just inside the blue line and was able to get his shot through a screen and past Scrivens.

Prior to the goal, Kuemper made a nice stop on Jordan Eberle with the Oilers on the power play. The puck found its way through a crowd to Eberle, who had taken a spot at the side of the net, but Kuemper slid across and turned away the Oilers right wing.

"I was just keeping my eye on it and follow it across," Kuemper said. "I was fortunate that he kind of shot it back into me. I was just trying to play square. It looked like it was going to be shot from the middle, and then it continued on. That's what made it a bit more challenging, but I stayed with it and it was a key save at the moment of the game."

The win was Kuemper's ninth (9-3-2) and his second against the Oilers this season. He was in goal when the Wild defeated the Oilers 4-1 on Jan. 16, turning aside 21 shots in that game as well.

"He made a couple of real big [saves]," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I look at one in the second period, that back-door play, and the next thing, we go down and score shortly after that. Whenever your goalie wins a game, they're doing something great. There were more moments than just that, but I thought he played a real strong game."

Heatley extended the Wild lead to 3-0 at 9:29 of the third period, lifting a rebound over Scrivens following a scramble in front. It was Heatley's 26th point in 26 career games against the Oilers.

Earlier in the period, Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov was hit in the right foot with a shot from teammate Justin Schultz. Yakupov left the game and did not return.

"It was a sloppy start and we just never got anything going from there," Schultz said. "Things didn't go our way early so we started trying to be individuals out there. We tried to be too fancy and it cost us.

"It wasn't our best effort. We wanted to get a good start at home; we have a lot of games here. We didn't really give our fans much tonight."

The Oilers came into the night having won five of their previous seven games. They'll host the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

The Wild will play the Vancouver Canucks on Friday to conclude their two-game road trip.

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