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Oilers outlast Wild 2-1 in shootout

by Brian Hunter

Winning games has been a challenge this season for the Edmonton Oilers, who lost sight of the playoffs a long time ago.

Try telling that to the Minnesota Wild, a team in desperate need of every point it can get with the eighth seed in the Western Conference still very much within reach.

Mike Comrie scored in regulation and again in the sixth round of the shootout, and Jeff Deslauriers stopped 28 shots as the Oilers edged the Wild 2-1 on Friday night atRexall Place

"It's always fun when you win, you kind of smile again," Comrie said. "We played hard and finally we changed the tune and got a win. It's a lot more fun winning."

Edmonton, which has the fewest points in the NHL, won for the first time in four games. Minnesota moved into a tie for 12th in the West with Anaheim, five points behind Detroit for the final playoff spot.

"We didn't play very well," Wild coach Todd Richards said. "No excuses; we didn't play the way we needed to win the game. We had opportunities in the end to win, but for the most part, for 60 minutes, it wasn't the type of game we needed to play."

Deslauriers was at his best in overtime, when a Theo Peckman holding penalty in the final minute gave Minnesota a 4-on-3 man advantage. The Wild outshot the Oilers 6-0 in the extra period but couldn't get anything past the second-year goalie, who has emerged as Edmonton's starter with Nikolai Khabibulin sidelined for most of the season due to back problems.

Mikko Koivu beat Deslauriers on the Wild's first shootout attempt, but Ryan Potulny answered right back for the Oilers. In the fourth round, Gilbert Brule looked like he might have scored the winner when he beat Niklas Backstrom, but Marek Zidlicky extended the penalty-shot tiebreaker with a goal. It stayed even into the sixth round when Comrie solved Backstrom and then Deslauriers made a stop on Guillaume Latendresse.

"Guys were making plays, both teams. Goaltenders played well," Potulny said. "J.D. was in there for us, won a hockey game for us. Both teams played hard. We battled tonight well, and we did the things defensively and got the win."

Latendresse scored his 21st goal of the season and 18th as a member of the Wild at 7:34 of the second period to tie the game. He got around Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert and swung behind the net before coming out in front to deposit the puck past Deslauriers.

Comrie, one of the more veteran players remaining on the Oilers, had given them a 1-0 lead when he scored his eighth of the season on a wraparound at 6:50 of the first.

"It's about time that something good happened for these young men," Oilers coach Pat Quinn said.

Edmonton had several players making their home debuts in this game, including defensemen Ryan Whitney and Aaron Johnson and forward Ryan Jones, acquired in separate transactions earlier in the week.

Whitney played a team-high 26:20, while Johnson played 21:10 and had a plus-1 rating.

"It's good to get your first game out of the way, especially when it's a win like that. It feels good," said Whitney, picked up from Anaheim in exchange for Lubomir Visnovsky. "I felt comfortable. It's a fun rink to play in, great fans -- you saw that in the end in the shootout. It was a fun night."

A little less so for Minnesota, which won the first half of its post-Olympics Alberta road trip by blanking Calgary on Wednesday and returns home for another meeting with the Flames on Sunday.

"It was a little sluggish there at the start," forward Andrew Ebbett said. "Kind of disappointing we gave up an extra point there. We need that for the playoff run. They're just playing for fun out there and it showed tonight. … It was close, but it wasn't our best effort tonight."

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report

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