Goalie Talbot returns, Oilers cool off WIld
SAINT PAUL, Minn. - It was anything but a lazy Saturday afternoon for the Edmonton Oilers.
Second-period goals by Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins helped them cool off the Wild during a matinee in Minnesota. Edmonton notched a 3-2 win, snapping the Wild’s four-game win streak.
Goalie Cam Talbot, who had missed the previous seven games with an undisclosed injury, backstopped the victory with 29 saves for Edmonton (14-17-2), which got the third-period game-winner from Jesse Puljujarvi. Defenseman Matt Dumba scored twice for the Wild (17-12-3) and Alex Stalock had 26 saves but Minnesota lost a regulation game at home for the first time since Nov. 4.
The Oilers notched 10 of the game’s first 11 shots on goal before the Wild offense woke up during a power play late in the period. Minnesota second-line left winger Jason Zucker fell victim to friendly fire in the final minute of the first. He was hit in the left knee by a Ryan Suter slap shot while posted in front of the Oilers’ net. Zucker was helped from the ice but returned for the second period.
“It’s nice for the guys to ease me into the game,” said Talbot, who joked that he felt great after a two-and-a-half-week vacation. “Sometimes coming off an extended period like that, sometimes you want early work. But they kept the first few to the outside and let me get comfortable, and just battled out from there and just tried to control the game.”
Edmonton broke the deadlock near the midway point of the second with the team’s fourth shorthanded goal of the season. After a Talbot save, Zack Kassian started a 2-on-1 break with Nugent-Hopkins. After a cross-ice pass from Kassian, Nugent-Hopkins zipped a rising wrist shot past Stalock on the stick side. It was the team-leading 13th goal of the season for Nugent-Hopkins.
“If you don’t win the special teams battle you usually don’t win,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, after his team was 0-for-4 on the power play and allowed the shorthanded goal. “You give them six power plays and then when you get your four and you don’t take advantage of it and they’re plus-one on it then you’re in trouble.”
Dumba tied the game four minutes later, taking a backhand pass from Mikael Granlund and blasting a slap shot from the high slot, which caught the inside of the right post behind Talbot and deflected in. Wild captain Mikko Koivu hit the pipe on a second-period power play and admitted frustration after the game.
“I think when you’re winning, it’s a lot easier. But tonight when you don’t score on those chances and when you lose the games obviously that’s when it gets frustrating, when you’re not able to help the team in that way,” said Koivu, who has gone 10 games without a point. “All we can do is create and get in there and find a way. It’s a matter of the next one. You’ve got to work at it.”
Lucic scored his eighth goal of the season with a fluttering shot that beat a screened Stalock’s glove, and assisted on Puljujarvi’s goal in the third. Despite Edmonton getting shut out twice recently, Lucic now has 10 points in the Oilers’ last 10 games.
“He’s one of those factors that we talk about in the locker room,” Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said. “You have a sense of calmness around him and he’s leading the team on the ice, also verbally in the locker room, and also getting some good production out of him, so we’re happy to have him.”
A slap shot that hit the upper right corner of the net gave Dumba the second two-goal game of his career. Stalock had one of Minnesota’s 31 shots on goal, firing a loose puck the length of the ice with the Wild killing a penalty in the third period.
NOTES: Injured Wild LW Zach Parise (back surgery) and D Jared Spurgeon (groin) have begun skating with the team, although neither has returned to the lineup. Parise, who has been on long-term injured reserve, has not been cleared for full contact by doctors. ... On Friday, two teams from the Alberta Junior Hockey League played the final hockey game at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton, which was the Oilers’ home rink from the building’s opening in 1974 until 2016 when the NHL team moved to Rogers Place in downtown Edmonton. Northlands is expected to be demolished sometime after Jan. 1. ... The Wild celebrated girls’ and women’s hockey over the weekend with several activities, including former high school, University of Minnesota and Olympic star Krissy Wendell practicing with the team on Friday.