SAINT PAUL, MN – It was by no means their most dominant win of the season, but the Oilers rode a two-goal first period from Benoit Pouliot to a gutsy 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
The Oilers top line was on fire in the opening period as Jordan Eberle and Pouliot hooked up for a pair of goals to put the visitors up 2-1 through 20 minutes. The Wild were relentless during the final 40 minutes, outshooting the Oil 34-19 on the night, but Ben Scrivens shut the door with 33 saves to backstop the victory.
It was the perfect revenge on the Wild for an Oilers squad that was blanked 4-0 by the same opponent on home ice at Rexall Place just four nights prior. That night Edmonton had no energy, no jump. On Tuesday, their hot first period resulted in a hard-earned victory.
“It feels great,” Coach Todd Nelson said of the bounce-back. “We had a really strong first period and then Minnesota took over, but our guys hung in there. Benny (Scrivens) was outstanding and our guys did what they had to do to get two points.”
The first Pouliot-Eberle connection came 11:12 into the opening frame after Pouliot knocked a Wild clearing attempt down at the blueline, made a nifty move to get around the defender and passed over to Eberle, who gave it right back to him on the doorstep for the tap-in.
Then, just 32 seconds after Tomas Vanek scored to get the home team on the board, Eberle set up Pouliot again to give the Oilers their second lead of the night. Eberle made a slick move down the left wing, attracted some attention and dropped a pass back to Pouliot, who slapped a one-timer past Devan Dubnyk to make it 2-1.
“Early on we were definitely going,” Eberle said of the chemistry with Pouliot. “Later on in the game we got a little outplayed, but Scrivy was there to shut the door and get us the win. We bent but we didn’t break, and this is a tough building, so it was nice to get a win.”
Pouliot got hot in mid-January with a stretch of six goals in four games, and the winger’s opening period pair bumped him up to 13 in 39 games on his injury-shortened first campaign with the blue and orange.
“We slowed down in the second and third, but we came out with the win so in the end it’s good,” he said. “They outplayed us at home big time a couple days ago, and now we come in here and win the game, so it’s huge for us. The atmosphere is always great after a win, and now we just have to keep it rolling.”
The middle frame was dominated by the Wild, but the Oilers were able to weather the storm and maintain their 2-1 lead through 40 minutes. Minnesota outshot Edmonton 13-5 in the second, but thanks to some big saves by Scrivens and a few key blocked shots, the home side was unable to tie it up.
Scrivens’ two marquee saves of the middle frame came against Vanek and Jordan Schroeder. The Oilers goalie squeezed his pads to deny Vanek on a breakaway attempt and then flash his glove to catch a piece of a Schroeder one-timer late in the period. Scrivens kept rolling in the third en route to his 12th win of the season.
“They got some looks, but I was able to see a lot of shots, so that’s a credit to the d-men and the way they played in front,” he said. “We had some big blocks, and any time there was a rebound the guys battled hard in front. They didn’t get too many extra whacks. Despite the shot count and the possession game, we did some good things. It’s obviously not a recipe you want to win every game with, but we’ll take it.”
The Oilers (11-12-3 under Coach Nelson) now have a pair of tough home games on the docket as they host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday and the defending champion Los Angeles Kings next Tuesday. From there, it’s back on the road for a five-game trek before returning to Edmonton for six straight.