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Oilers rally, beat Wild in shootout

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Taylor Hall's goal in the fourth round of the shootout was the cherry on top of a three-goal comeback for the Edmonton Oilers in a 4-3 win against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild took a 3-0 lead by scoring three goals in a span of 4:16 late in the first period. But the Oilers got one back before the period ended, then scored twice in the third period to force overtime. Neither team scored in the five-minute OT, and Hall ended the game by beating Darcy Kuemper through the five hole. Kuemper allowed three goals on four shots in the tiebreaker after stopping the first 11 shootout attempts he faced this season.

"It's been a while since I've taken a shootout shot," Hall said. "I was kind of panicking a bit, but [Jordan Eberle] told me he thought five-hole would be there, and sure enough, fake shot, five hole. It was good to see that one go in."

Indeed, the five-hole turned out to be Kuemper's kryptonite Tuesday. Edmonton's first two goals - almost carbon copies of one another - each beat the rookie goaltender between the legs.

"Obviously, when you're the goalie and you have a 3-0 cushion, you have to hold the team in there," Kuemper said. "Tonight, that didn't happen. I didn't feel off my game or anything, just one of those nights where it didn't go my way."

After Jason Pominville made it 3-0 at 15:23 of the first period, the Oilers were able to stem the tide and get an important goal 1:32 later. The play looked harmless enough, as Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry carried the puck to the right corner and floated a centering pass into the slot that deflected off the skate of Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin and went past Kuemper for his fifth of the season.

"There's a big difference between a three-goal lead or a four-goal lead and a two-goal lead," Hall said. "We just wanted to cut that lead to two. Anytime you're up by two, you know a team can come back right away. It was huge to get that first goal and let us breathe a little bit."

The score remained 3-1 until just past the midway point of the third period, when Andrew Ference skated to the same corner and centered a pass from the identical spot. This time, David Perron tipped the puck through Kuemper's legs for his team-leading 24th.

Four minutes later, the game was tied when Kuemper left a massive rebound on a dump-in from center by Ference. Eberle beat a pair of defensemen for the loose puck in the slot and beat Kuemper over his glove with less than five minutes left in regulation.

"I'm proud of them. It would've been real easy to pack it in, call it a night and get on to the next game, but our guys refused to do it," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "They just kept scrapping and clawing and it's tough against a team like that."

The shootout loss extended Minnesota's winless streak to three games, and the Wild, currently first in the Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card race in the Western Conference, saw their lead over the Dallas Stars for the top wild card slot shrink to three points. Their lead over the ninth-place Phoenix Coyotes is four.

The Wild were riding a season-best five-game winning streak when they acquired goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and forwards Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick prior to last Wednesday's NHL Trade Deadline. Since those moves, the Wild are 0-1-2.

"We had some momentum, we had kind of a good thing going," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "Now, we're kind of struggling to find the right mix, the right chemistry, whatever it is. We're not in sync, we're not the same that we were, not consistently enough. As long as we keep looking for that, once we do, we'll be fine."

Minnesota came out sluggish after a pregame ceremony honoring Matt Cooke's 1,000th game, as Yeo started Cooke on the left side of center Mikko Koivu and Moulson. It was a classy gesture by the third-year coach, but with Cooke normally slotted on the team's third line with Kyle Brodziak and Nino Niederreiter, it forced the Wild to constantly adjust their lineup until the first television timeout more than seven minutes into the game.

Once Minnesota got its offense in order, it struck three times in succession.

The Wild took advantage of a power play opportunity at 11:07 when Mikael Granlund found Zach Parise alone in front of Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth. Granlund dished to the doorstep and Fasth was up to the task on Parise's tap-in try. But with nobody in front to clear him out, Parise gathered in the rebound and easily slipped it into the net for his 22nd goal of the season.

Less than three minutes later, a point shot by Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon deflected off the skate of Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz and over Fasth's shoulder for his third of the season.

Minnesota's top line struck again at 15:23 when Granlund found Pominville in front. His shot was deflected in the air and looked to be headed into the net before Fasth knocked it down. So convinced he was about to score, Pominville raised his arms in celebration. He barely had enough time to get his stick back on the ice before Granlund found him again. This time, Pominville snuck the puck between Fasth and the near-side post for his team-leading 24th of the season.

Yeo was happy with the three-goal lead, though he wasn't sure his team deserved it.

"To be honest, I thought we were a little bit lucky to be up 3-0," Yeo said. "You could tell that we weren't on it right away. We took advantage of a power play early and were able to get a couple quick ones. But you could tell we weren't on top of our game. We addressed it, we talked about it, but we couldn't find it and you're playing with fire when you do that."

The Wild had an extended 5-on-3 power play in the second period and put eight shots in Fasth in the first 10 minutes of the third, but never could re-establish the three-goal lead.

"That could have been the game," Fasth said of the 5-on-3. "We had a huge kill there. They had a really good power play and guys fought incredibly in front of me. They were blocking shots and throwing their bodies everywhere. That was really important."

"That could've been lights out," Eakins said. "Our killers did an amazing job. They took direction on the kills very, very well and they executed and that's what it takes to win hockey games."

Fasth, traded to the Oilers last Wednesday from the Anaheim Ducks for a pair of third-round draft picks, settled in nicely after the rough first period. In his first NHL action since Nov. 18, Fasth stopped nine shots in the second and 13 more in the third. He finished with 28 saves.

Kuemper made 23 saves and has lost in consecutive starts for the first time this season.

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