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Wild continue dominance of Oilers with 3-goal third

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- There are any number of statistics that tell the story of the Minnesota Wild's mastery of the Edmonton Oilers when these Northwest Division rivals hook up at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota scored three third-period goals Sunday in a dominant defensive effort against Edmonton, winning 4-2 and improving to 19-1-0 in its past 20 in this building against the Oilers.

The one stat that told the story for Edmonton on Sunday was shots on goal. After putting seven on Niklas Backstrom in the first period, the Oilers were held off the shot chart in the second period. It was the fifth time in franchise history the Oilers were held without a shot for an entire period, and first since Nov. 8, 2006.

"They played a great 60 minutes. It was fun to watch," Backstrom said of his team's defense.

Wild coach Mike Yeo was equally impressed.

"I really liked the start of the game and I really liked the finish," he said. "I really liked the part in between too. That was a solid game."

Minnesota's masterful effort in the middle frame was the third shot-chart shutout in team history, the first since March 31, 2009.

"It was an extremely disappointing second period, there's no question," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said. "It was amazing how we lost almost every battle that there was. They really maintained the pressure in our end. We couldn't create anything, which the shot clock showed."

A 29-7 difference in shots through 40 minutes did not translate on the scoreboard, however, with the teams tied 1-1.

But instead of being frustrated, the Wild responded nine seconds into the third, grabbing the lead for good on a slick play by captain Mikko Koivu, who lifted the stick of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at the Minnesota blueline, corralled the puck and rifled a wrist shot past Devan Dubnyk for his fourth goal of the season.

"That was one of the more impressive things to me. We came out with the right focus right away in the third period," Yeo said. "We had a power play [at the end of the second period] and we didn't have a lot of success on it. It's quite easy to deviate, it's quite easy to stray and we didn't -- we just kept coming out with the same focus."

Krueger said, "Being 1-1 after two, we almost had to say, 'Hey, we've got a good shot at this now because we can play a lot better.' The start of the third period just really put the knife into us. It was difficult to recover."

Six minutes later, Charlie Coyle's backhander extended the Wild lead to 3-1 and proved to be the game-winner. For Coyle, one of Minnesota's top prospects, it was his first goal at home and first two-point game.

"Mikko and Zach [Parise] have done a phenomenal job with that kid," Yeo said. "I think they see what he's bringing to the table, the little things he does day in and day out. That was important for me that he did get rewarded."

The Wild jumped ahead 2:37 into the game on Jared Spurgeon's second goal of the season, a snap shot from the point which found its way through traffic in front.

The Oilers tied the score 1-1 with 2:02 left in the first period when Magnus Paajarvi banged home a rebound of his wrap-around attempt. Edmonton wouldn't find the net again until 12:56 of the third when a clearing attempt by Koivu bounced off the skate of Sam Gagner behind the net then off Ryan Suter's chest and in, narrowing the gap to 3-2.

But on the power play than three minutes later, Dany Heatley redirected a point shot by Koivu for his eighth of the season to give Minnesota some insurance.

Koivu's three-point night was the 20th of his career. The Wild are 18-2-0 when he puts up three points.

The Wild outshot the Oilers 43-21 and pulled four points ahead of Edmonton in the Northwest Division and to within two of the division-leading Vancouver Canucks, who lost to the Calgary Flames 4-2 on Sunday.

"I think we're starting to see what kind of team we're capable of being if we play a full 60 minutes," Spurgeon said.

The Wild will get the ultimate test Tuesday night when they play at the Chicago Blackhawks, who have yet to lose a game in regulation this season. The Wild did deal the Blackhawks one of their three overtime losses in a 3-2 shootout victory Jan. 30 in St. Paul.

Edmonton dropped to 1-2-1 on its nine-game road trip, which continues Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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