EDMONTON - Kyle Brodziak scored twice, while Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund each picked up a goal and an assist as the Minnesota Wild defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 Tuesday night at Rexall Place.
Edmonton has now lost six straight games for the first time since December of 2009. The Oilers remain in 12th in the Western Conference, eight points back of the Detroit Red Wings with six games left.
"We were striving so hard to be part of this playoff situation this year and the disappointment has been large," said Head Coach Ralph Krueger. "I don't see anyone quitting here. Losing is a bad spiral and you get no free energy right now. It's got to be earned by digging in one game at a time. At the moment, I feel there's character in the room. There's fatigue, but all teams have it. It's connected to the losing streak."
"We're not quitters," added Ryan Smyth, who played 12:51, recorded three shots on goal and a -2 rating in the loss. "We take pride in what we do. It's frustrating.
"It's very frustrating."
Minnesota opened the 61 seconds into the game. A long-range shot by Pierre-Marc Bouchard was redirected en route, causing Devan Dubnyk to mishandle the puck upon its arrival. Quick to pounce on the rebound, untouched ex-Oiler Kyle Brodziak hammered it home.
Dubnyk made 25 saves in the loss. His counterpart, Niklas Backstrom, stopped 16 of the 19 he faced.
The Oilers have now given up a goal in the first minute-and-a-half in three of their past five games. Mike Richards (1:38 in a 4-1 loss at Los Angeles) and Mikael Backlund (0:26 in a 4-1 loss vs. Calgary) were the others.
The Wild were given a chance to extend their lead 30 seconds later after Jordan Eberle was assessed a boarding minor, but Dubnyk was sharp and the Oilers came up with a big kill.
Adding to their momentum, the Oilers were presented with glorious scoring chance moments later as the puck popped free to Teemu Hartikainen alone in the slot, but Backstrom and his aggressive challenge denied the Finn's rapid wrist shot.
With less than four minutes to play in the period, the Oilers made it a 1-1 game. A hot, cross-slot centering pass by Taylor Hall got caught up in the paraphernalia of Brett Clark at the doorstep. When it was freed, Yakupov wasted little time in picking his spot and slamming a half-slapper past Backstrom for the equalizer.
With the goal (and his assist recorded later), Yakupov has now tallied 25 points on the season and was moved into fourth in rookie scoring ahead of Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad. Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers currently holds the outright lead with 27 points.
"I would say that," answered Krueger when asked if Yakupov was his best player. "He was playing quite energetic and was creating a lot of chances. Nail certainly played a good game today."
Yakupov played a season-high 18:17, delivering three shots and two shots on goal in the process. He now has 11 points in his last 10 games.
After striking the goal post early in the second period, the Wild restored their lead at 2:56. Off a won faceoff and a failed clearing attempt by the home side, Stoner launched and a missile from the point that was redirected by Coyle and in to make it a 2-1 game.
Granlund was the beneficiary of an active end-board bounce at 6:23, beating Ryan Smyth to a loose puck in the slot and promptly deploying a laser that extended the Wild's lead.
Zach Parise put the Wild up 4-1 20 seconds into the third period when he tucked a wraparound into the empty net behind a sprawling Dubnyk.
It soon became a 5-1 game after Brodziak collected his second of the night, scoring on a breakaway that redirected off the base of the post, off Dubnyk's right skate and in.
"When you fall behind, you have a tendency to do too much offensively and get out of the system," said Krueger. "We've been doing that too much lately and it's the way our games are evolving. We're falling behind, not staying patient with the system and getting away from our defensive structure."
"It was pretty bad there for a while," added Hall. "We got a couple goals in the end to make it pretty decent, but it's sucks losing. If we're in the playoffs or not, we want to win every game we can.
"The results aren't there, but our effort -- I don't see us dropping in that category."
Shawn Horcoff scored a power-play goal at 10:00 to make it a 5-2 game, easily depositing a Hall centering pass into the empty net.
The Oilers' comeback quest continued with 12:47 remaining. Yakupov raced in and snapped a shot that clunked off the base of Backstrom's right post, but Paajarvi was quick to clean up the change by sliding the puck home from close in.
"Somehow we got aggressive again and somehow we played simple again," said Paajarvi. "We played hard and that's when we're at our best. Clearly we're not doing that for 60 minutes. Six (losses) in a row is not acceptable. Character and pride is No. 1 right now and we have to step it up."
The Oilers pulled Dubnyk for an extra-attacker late, but the push came up empty.
"We're in a results business and we're not getting them right now," said Krueger.
The Oilers are back in action on Friday night in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.
OIL SPILLS: Lennart Petrell left the game in the second period with an ankle injury and did not return. His status will be reevaluated on Wednesday.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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