Wild continue home mastery of Oilers
By Dave Campbell, AP Sports Writer
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom ended a six-start winless streak, beating his favorite opponent in the Wild's 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
Defenseman Tom Gilbert and Linus Omark each had power-play goals -- a rarity for Edmonton's struggling special teams unit -- but the last-place Oilers fell to 0-8-3 in their last 11 games.
Antti Miettinen, Marek Zidlicky, Brad Staubitz and Martin Havlat scored for Minnesota. Backstrom has never lost to the Oilers, improving to 14-0 in his career against them.
With both teams out of the playoff picture -- the Oilers were never in it this season -- this game was all about streaks. The Wild beat Edmonton at home for the 16th time in a row, matching the longest current run of consecutive home wins against one team in the NHL.
They've outscored the Oilers 58-21 during the stretch.
Nikolai Khabibulin started his seventh straight game in goal for Edmonton without a win, his last coming on Feb. 17. He was unlucky at first, with Miettinen's goal glancing of Ladislav Smid's skate, and Zidlicky's hitting off Jeff Petry's in a span of 35 seconds midway through the first period.
Khabibulin made two sprawling saves in a row that period, too, when John Madden and Chuck Kobasew fired short-handed rebounds at him from close range following a rush by Madden. But Staubitz chipped one off the post and around Khabibulin in the second period for the bruiser's second goal all season. Then Havlat zipped a slap shot past his glove for a 4-0 lead late in the middle frame.
This late-season tilt between division foes was one of those try-not-to-get-hurt games, but Miettinen took a face-first spill into the boards on a cross-check by Jim Vandermeer, shortly after a four-minute high-stick penalty on Miettinen. There were other mini-scuffles that broke out, too, though no serious injuries were apparent.
NOTES: Oilers rookie Chris Vande Velde, a high school star in Moorhead, Minn., played his first pro game in his home state. ... Gilbert, of Bloomington, is also a Minnesotan. Cullen, from Moorhead, notched his 500th career point and ranks eighth in NHL history in scoring by Minnesota natives. Phil Housley is the leader. ... Gilbert scored for the first time in 49 games since Dec. 10. ... Brent Burns had an assist and set a Wild record for most points in a season by a defenseman with 44, besting his and Zidlicky's previous marks of 43. Burns has 16 goals and 28 assists, but the All-Star went all 13 games in March without scoring. ... Havlat leads the Wild with 22 goals.