Ryan Smyth scored his first goal as an Oiler since Feb. 23, 2007, but that was all the orange and blue could muster as the Wild clawed back, scoring a pair in the shootout to drop Edmonton by a 2-1 score on Thursday night.
Nikolai Khabibulin got the start in goal, posting 34 saves in the loss.
Just as the game approached the three-minute mark, the Oilers choreographed several high-quality scoring chances. A one-touch pass by Taylor Hall allowed Tom Gilbert to walk down the middle and snap a quick shot on goal, but Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom -- who is 14-0-0 vs. Edmonton all-time at home -- athletically turned the chance aside.
As the midway point passed, the Oilers had doubled-up the Wild 4-2 on the shot clock and were gaining a decided territorial advantage, but were unable to cash the game's opening tally.
Moments later at 11:40, the Oilers went up 1-0. Jordan Eberle dished to a poised Eric Belanger in the slot, and No. 20's one-time bullet was tipped on goal and banged home by Ryan Smyth. It was his first goal scored in an Oilers sweater since Feb. 23, 2007 when he converted vs. Detroit in a 4-3 shootout win.
Ex-Wild Andy Sutton was issued a minor penalty at 12:46 when he crushed Minnesota's Brad Staubitz with a cross-check, but the Wild's 3-for-13 power-play was unable to manufacture a goal.
Late in the period, Khabibulin and his D came up big to preserve the club's edge. The 38-year-old netminder made an ill-advised pass to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at the goal-mouth, allowing Pierre-Marc Bouchard to pounce. The Wild centre placed a quick wrister on net, but Ladislav Smid swooped in to save the day.
With 20 minutes in the books, the Oilers continued to lead 1-0 and were in possession of a 12-9 advantage in shots.
Ales Hemsky was not on the bench to conclude the period. We'll have an update as soon as it becomes available.
Update at 7:01pm: Hemsky will not return due to a sore shoulder and will be assessed tomorrow.
Minnesota recorded three shots and no goals on an earlier chance, but went back to the power-play at 4:12 when Theo Peckham was assessed a minor for intereference.
With only 39 seconds remaining in the man-advantage, Devin Setoguchi danced inside-out on Smid and raced in alone on Khabibulin. The Oilers' masked man came out to cut down the angle, making a sensational glove save and smothering the rebound to keep his team's lead on the board.
With Hemsky out, Anton Lander was promoted to play alongside Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
At 8:18, a 3-on-1 developed for the home side; Matt Cullen bulleted in with Guillaume Latendresse and Clayton Stoner and, with a quick snapshot labeled top-corner on Khabibulin, the Virginia, MN native pulled his team even in a 1-1 draw.
Having procured an 18-17 lead in shots, the Oilers went to the power-play with only 4:56 remaining in the period. Bouchard was selected to serve Minnesota's bench minor for too many men.
The Oilers' man-advantage opportunity ended 1:25 in when Smyth picked up a minor for running over Backstrom in the home team's crease. The 4-on-4 period and ensuing Wild power-play passed without incident and the game stayed locked in a 1-1 score.
10 middle-period attempts vaulted Minnesota to a 19-19 draw on the shot clock.
Coincidental roughing minors to Sutton and Latendresse 2:50 into the period put the team's in a two-minute 4-on-4 situation. Minnesota's Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley combined to orchestrate a pair of gorgeous scoring chances, but Khabibulin stopped them all with ease.
At 5:34, Wild defenceman Greg Zanon was charged for intereference, putting the Oilers on their third power-play opportunity. The visitors were unable to generate a shot, let alone a quality scoring chance. As such, the 1-1 score remained as the period's 10-minute mark approached.
With a 12-1 third-period outburst, Minnesota had extended its shot lead to a 32-20 advantage overall as regulation time expired.
The teams raced end-to-end looking to mark the game-winning tally and, with only 2:17 remaining, Marco Scandella was presented with the extra session's best chance. He was sprung on a breakaway and was subsequently denied by Khabibulin's right pad, but Taylor Hall's same-sequence hooking minor put the Wild on a 4-on-3 power-play to close overtime.
The Oilers came up big, killing the remaining time and sending the game to a shootout; the Oilers' second straight to open the 2011 regular season.
Matt Cullen and Jordan Eberle opened the shootout with goals, each scoring with creative moves to fool the netminders. Pierre Marc-Bouchard and Anton Lander were next to shoot, but were both stopped by the goalies' catchers. Mikko Koivu looked to put the pressure on the Oilers, but Khabibulin made a stone-cold blocker save.
Taylor Hall had a chance to end the game, but his 'Forsberg' toe-drag outlasted his already extended reach.
Devin Setoguchi stepped up in the extra frame, stopping in the slot and snapping the puck bar-in to establish an edge for the home side. The Oilers' captain was next to shoot, but No. 10 was emphatically turned away, sealing a 2-1 victory for the Wild on home ice.
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