It wasn't the final shot count but the quality of saves that stole the spotlight Friday night at Rexall Place. With 28 stops through 65 minutes plus four in the shootout, Jeff Deslauriers outplayed the Wild and his goaltending opponent Niklas Backstrom to secure an exciting 2-1 win for the Oilers.
The Oilers had a feisty start to the game, thanks in large part to recent addition Ryan Jones. Less than two minutes in, the forward carried the puck into the Wild zone, out-battled the visiting defencemen, and powered towards the net when goalie Niklas Backstrom was drawn out of his crease. Jones thought he got the puck over the line, but Backstrom came back and smothered the opportunity.
Five minutes later, another gritty play got the Oilers on the board. After unsuccessfully attempting to prod the puck past Backstrom, Mike Comrie skirted behind the net and wrapped it around the opposite post to give Edmonton a 1-0 lead.
On the following face-off, Jones was unwillingly back in the spotlight. While skating mid-ice, he was clipped by bruiser Derek Boogaard and crumpled craddling his right knee. Boogaard was ushered to the penalty box for kneeing and Jones was assisted back to the locker room. He returned to action a few minutes later but would not play in the final two periods.
Edmonton couldn't capitalize on the powerplay, but neither could Minnesota when Theo Peckham was convicted of holding moments later.
That Wild powerplay, plus a second later in the period, gave the visitors a 6-5 shot lead, but that's as far as it went and the Oilers closed 20 minutes with a 1-0 lead.
The Wild dominated the start of the second by outshooting the Oilers 6-2, and at 7:24 the pressure paid off. Like Comrie did in the first, Guillaume Latendresse got his team on the board with a textbook wraparound.
Tempers flared on a few occasions as the period progressed, but the damage was limited to roughing minors.
A pair of huge saves by Deslauriers and Backstrom thrilled and disappointed fans accordingly, and -- more importantly -- stretched the 1-1 tie into the third period.
Edmonton and Minnesota were evenly matched in the final frame and kept both goalies busy in the strive for the go-ahead goal.
With six minutes left in regulation, Owen Nolan gave the Oilers the edge by barrelling into Deslauriers, but the home team couldn't cut the penalty short with a goal.
As the minutes ticked down, Gilbert Brule descended in on Backstrom and was faced with an open net, but the goalie surged across and killed the shot with his right pad to keep things even and force extra time.
Deslauriers came up with a six big saves in sudden death, including three during another holding minor to Peckham. His efforts pushed the game into a shootout.
Patrick O'Sullivan couldn't beat Backstrom on the first shootout attempt, and Deslauriers was beaten by Mikko Koivu when he faced the first Wild shooter. Marek Zidlicky would beat the goalie three shots later, but two final saves from JD and goals by Oilers Ryan Potulny, Gilbert Brule, and Mike Comrie combined for an exciting 2-1 shootout win for Edmonton.