Wild slip past Oilers to end two-game skid
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
ST. PAUL -- Devin Setoguchi scored in the fourth round of the shootout, spoiling a strong night by Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and sending the Minnesota Wild to a 2-1 victory Thursday night, ending their two-game skid.
Khabibulin was nearly impenetrable, standing firm during a third period in which the Wild outshot the Oilers 15-1.
Matt Cullen, who had the only goal for Minnesota in regulation, scored first in the shootout before Khabibulin denied the next two shooters.
Ryan Smyth had the goal for the Oilers, who have lost 17 straight games to the Wild at Xcel Energy Center. They lost all six to Minnesota last season, getting outscored 23-9.
After converting only one of nine power plays on their two-game road trip this week, losing to the New York Islanders and dropping a shootout decision to Ottawa, the Wild went 0 for 3 in regulation and had a prime 4-on-3 chance in overtime after Taylor Hall's hooking penalty.
But they fired off a lot more passes than shots during those precious 2 minutes, and Khabibulin and the Edmonton blue liners were in position and tough enough to fend it off.
That came right after Khabibulin kicked aside a backhander by Marco Scandella after he slipped free in the Edmonton zone.
Khabibulin made 34 saves.
Injuries and inexperience kept the Oilers at the bottom of the NHL both of the last two years, but this budding team -- the last playoff appearance was the 2006 Stanley Cup finals -- has finished the reconstruction project with consecutive first overall draft picks of Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Nugent-Hopkins had a goal in the home opener, a shootout win over Pittsburgh, and the two young stars are playing together on a promising line.
The Oilers have some important players hurt, including center Sam Gagner and defenseman Ryan Whitney with ankle injuries, but with Smyth, their popular former captain who was acquired during the summer in a trade with Los Angeles, back on the roster they seem to have a little more confidence.
They have speed, too. They showed that off in the first period, controlling the pace of play and taking the lead halfway into the opening frame when Smyth camped out in the crease and pivoted to backhand a rebound of Eric Belanger's shot that brushed the post and sneaked in.
The Wild woke up toward the end of the period and began to create plenty of scoring chances, but the 38-year-old Khabibulin was on his game. He had one lapse where a soft pass appeared to surprise Nugent-Hopkins, and Minnesota's Pierre-Marc Bouchard swooped in for a potential freebee in front of the net. Defenseman Ladislav Smid slid over to stop Bouchard from scoring.
The old "Bulin Wall" denied shot after shot, though, thwarting Setoguchi's power-play breakaway in the second period. It took a nifty 2-on-1 move by Cullen midway through the middle frame to tie the game. He faked a pass to Guillaume Latendresse in the slot, and defenseman Tom Gilbert went with it, curling back toward Latendresse. That gave Cullen an opening, and he went high for his third goal in four games this season.
NOTES: The Oilers and Wild play six times this season, all before New Year's Eve. ... Gilbert, who grew up in the area and played for Bloomington Jefferson High School before becoming a college star at Wisconsin, made his NHL debut with the Oilers at the end of the 2006-07 season and has never won here as a pro. ... The Oilers have three former Wild skaters: Belanger, Cam Barker and Andy Sutton. ... Bouchard and Brad Staubitz both returned from their suspensions for the Wild. Bouchard got a two-game ban without pay for high-sticking an opponent in the face. Staubitz sat out the first three games, plus the final week of the preseason, for an illegal check from behind. ... Cullen had 12 goals last season, none in the final 24 games. All three of his goals this season have been at even strength, matching his total from last season. ... Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom is 19-2-1 in his career against the Oilers, including 15-0 at home. ... The last time the Oilers won at Minnesota was Jan. 16, 2007.