The Oilers return home to face the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. MST. The game can be seen on CBC or heard on 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.
SAINT PAUL, MN – The Oilers won a closely-contested battle on Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild, taking a 2-1 decision thanks to a late third-period goal by Connor McDavid.
With just over seven minutes to go, McDavid blazed down the ice gaining full speed through the neutral zone before muscling a wrist shot past Kuemper to put Edmonton ahead to stay.
“You just try to put it on net,” said McDavid of his game winner. “You come in on an awkward angle, coming in fast, so the goalie doesn’t really know how to play that I don’t think. I’ll take it.”
McDavid added that the victory, with a depleted lineup due to injuries and suspensions, was a nice one for the squad from Northern Alberta.
“It feels good. They’re a desperate team playing for their lives and they had a couple days off so we knew they were rested. It was a good win for us.”
The win was Edmonton's fourth in five road games as the team has finally found its groove away from home.
“I think a lot of guys are feeling relief when we’re on the road," McDavid remarekd. "Sometimes it’s tough to play in front of your home fans when you’re not putting together good home games. The guys played a little more loose and it’s showing.”
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan echoed the thoughts of McDavid.
“It’s a real good feeling. I’m proud of the group tonight. Scrappy effort. Right from minute one on through, there were a lot of positives in the game for us tonight. Our penalty kill was very good. I consider the one goal we got a power play goal — the man who got out of the box was just coming out so that’s a positive sign. To keep a team like that to one goal is a very good thing. Win on the road, confidence builder for us. Now if we can parlay this into a good homestand we’ll be pleased,” he said.
The game started off well for the Oilers as they carried the majority of the play early on with some good scoring chances. Their hard work down low even resulted in receiving the game’s first man advantage as Justin Fontaine of Minnesota got two minutes for hooking.
Three seconds after the penalty expired, Lauri Korpikoski backhanded the puck while on one knee after picking up the rebound on a Mark Letestu shot through traffic. The puck slipped just inside the right post past Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper to give Edmonton the lead.
"It was a great play to throw it at the net. Then (the puck) came out to me and I just reacted with a backhand and it went in. It was good to get on the board," Korpikoski commented.
Edmonton raced out to a 10-4 lead in the game on the shot clock with some outstanding chances, including Jordan Eberle who nearly made it a 2-0 game after driving to the net and attempting a backhand from in tight but Kuemper made a nice stop.
With 3:44 to play in the first, Andrej Sekera was tripped up behind the Oilers net by Mikael Granlund, resulting in Edmonton's second man advantage of the game and period but they were unable to convert.
Minnesota picked up some momentum late and it carried over to the second period. Shots on goal were 13-12 Oilers after the opening 20 minutes.
The Wild took over the game from the second period on thanks to Matt Hendricks being unable to play any longer. Minnesota dominated Edmonton in the face-off circle all night, winning 40 of 55 draws (73%). The absence of Lander and Hendricks hurt the Oilers in the dot, according to McLellan.
"Unfortunately he only played three shifts. Had we known, we could have had a healthy Anton Lander in there and Anton would have helped us in the faceoff circle, which we got drilled in for most of the night, and we would have had another penalty killer. It was a noble attempt by Hendricks to play in front of his family here at home but when it's all said and done we would have liked that healthy body."
After some sustained Wild pressure in the Oilers end, Andrej Sekera tried to clear the puck out but ended up clearing it over the glass with 13:36 to go in the middle frame. Result was a delay-of-game penalty to the blueliner and a Wild man advantage, their first of the night.
However, the Oilers completed an excellent penalty kill where they didn't allow the Wild hardly any time in the attacking zone. Unfortunately, Edmonton’s lack of success in the face-off dot hurt them around a minute after the man advantage ended. Right off the draw, Zach Parise corralled the puck in the right circle and wired it glove side past Talbot to tie the game at 1-1.
Edmonton started to get into some penalty trouble, first Eberle and then Letestu heading to the box but penalty killers stood tall. The best scoring chance on either power play was by Connor McDavid, who was sprung on a breakaway by Adam Cracknell. McDavid elected to shoot low blocker side and Kuemper turned it away with his pad.
Shots in the second were 10-4 for the Wild. Overall after 40 minutes, Minnesota had a 22-17 lead on the shot clock. Throughout the entire game, shots were 30-25 for the Wild.