EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers two-game win streak came to an end as Charlie Coyle’s third period goal lifted Minnesota to a 2-1 win at Rexall Place.
Edmonton managed just 11 shots through the first 40 minutes of the game. Things opened up in the third period, but Coyle’s goal and a solid performance by the Wild goaltender rejected their comeback bid.
“We have to have the will to shoot the puck,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “We have to funnel pucks to the net and try not to be so selective. When we’re going wide, especially in a game like tonight where we didn’t generate a lot of shots, we (need to) start throwing pucks in the goalie’s feet and trying to work pads. We did more of that in the third period and that’s something we talk about all the time. It was a fast-paced game. The third period was anybody’s game. I think there were chances traded by both sides and they got the game winner.”
Sustained zone time eventually resulted in the Wild taking a 1-0 lead at 9:09 of the first period. Nino Niederreiter scored top shelf from in front of the net, assisted by Justin Fontaine.
Just prior to that score, Viktor Fasth had made a save with the puck slowly trickling through the goaltender. The Oilers dug it out of the crease to avoid more chaos. However, Niederreiter’s goal quickly followed.
Part of the slow start for the Oilers may have had to do with some All Star break rust, a factor that both teams admitted to suffering.
“We came off a break and I think we were flat,” Oilers centre Boyd Gordon said.
He added, “It was a little dull at the start. We gave up some chances and Vik made some great saves. I think we created a little bit more in the third but the first two periods we really didn’t get much traffic or too many shots or too many opportunities.”
With roughly 2:30 left in the first, the Oilers nearly tied things up on a Minnesota err. Devan Dubnyk went to play the puck behind the net but Oilers winger Teddy Purcell ended up having a wide open chance at the side of the net. Unfortunately for the Oilers, they couldn’t punch it through.
Justin Schultz came close to tying the game midway through the second period. The Oilers defenceman came in on a breakaway but was robbed by Dubnyk.
The Oilers tied the game at 1-1 with 2:44 remaining in the middle frame. From behind the net, Gordon spun and wrapped around the post, sending a shot through the crease. The puck deflected in off a Wild player for the greasy equalizer. Matt Hendricks and Oscar Klefbom recorded the assists.
Purcell was denied again on another great chance halfway through the third period, that could have put the Oilers on top. Purcell’s shot on a 2-on-1 couldn’t find twine.
“Slow start for us,” Schultz said. “It took a while for us to get our legs going. We came out in the third and had our chances to take the lead and tie it up there. We just couldn’t execute tonight and we’ve got to get ready for it next game.”
Charlie Coyle put Minnesota back on top with an outstanding move. On a partial break, Coyle cut around the net and backhanded the puck to the post, then bat it in behind Fasth at 15:37 of the third.
The Oilers got a power play opportunity at 18:38 of the third when Ryan Suter was sent to the sin bin for holding the stick. However, the home team couldn’t put another past their former netminder. Dubnyk finished the game with 23 saves in the win for the Wild. He has four wins against the Oilers this season.
“I don’t know why that is,” Dubnyk said. “They’ve been good games. Three of the four games have been 2-1 and those guys have played well over there. It’s always a fun challenge. I know how skilled they are and it’s always more fun stopping your buddies. Fortunately, I’ve been on the right side of it this year.”
“He’s been on the winning side a lot of our games,” Gordon said. “I think we need to try to just get more traffic, get more shots, get more bodies to the net. I don’t think we did that maybe enough tonight.”
The Oilers will now switch their focus to the Buffalo Sabres, who come to town on Thursday night.
“We’ve got to respond next game,” Gordon said. “I think we’ve been playing better hockey as of late and that’s something where we can’t slip into our old habits. We just have to focus on playing our system and doing as good of a job as we can.”