EDMONTON, ALBERTA – So much for the concern that the Edmonton Oilers would be sparked by Monday’s dismissal of General Manager Steve Tambellini and the front-office reunion of the old boys’ network of Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish and Scott Howson.
The Wild also is a motivated team, motivated by the fact that it desperately wants to end a four-year postseason drought.
Tuesday night at Rexall Place, the Oilers couldn’t match the Wild’s desperation level early, and for that reason, Minnesota pulled off a critical Alberta sweep to strengthen its playoff chances.
One night after beating Calgary, the Wild knocked off the Oilers 5-3.
The victory moved the sixth-place Wild within four points of Northwest Division leader Vancouver but more importantly four points up on ninth-place Columbus with five games left.
“We’re picking up our game right now,” said the Wild’s Kyle Brodziak, who scored two goals. “We’ve got to keep building, and the goal is to peak by the playoffs. But I think we’re turning the corner.”
The Wild got a number of strong efforts Tuesday and a few slump-busters.
Brodziak, an Edmonton resident and former Oiler, ended an 11-game drought with his two goals. Mikael Granlund, originally supposed to be bound for Houston of the AHL, scored his first goal since the Jan. 19 season opener. Zach Parise scored his first goal in nine games.
“It’s nice to score goals, that’s for sure, isn’t it?” Wild coach Mike Yeo said.
Also, defenseman Clayton Stoner silenced many of his critics with two assists, including one on rookie Charlie Coyle’s deflected goal.
Starting for the second consecutive night and 21st game in the past 22, Niklas Backstrom made 16 saves for his 22nd victory.
Brodziak, coming off a 22-goal season, has struggled for much of this year. He entered the game a minus-14 but was coming off arguably his best game of the season Monday in Calgary.
While he didn’t register a point against the Flames, his line, which includes Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Jason Pominville, was buzzing and Brodziak in particular was solid in all three zones.
Picking up where he left off in southern Alberta, Brodziak scored the game’s opening goal 61 seconds in.
Brodziak first forced a turnover in the neutral zone to get the puck up to Bouchard at the blue line. Bouchard skated in and softly put a shot on net that was intended to be a rebound. Pominville overskated it, but the Oilers’ Sam Gagner placed it right onto Brodziak’s stick for the center’s easy tally by Devan Dubnyk.
That proved big because the Oilers would tie the game on a fluky goal at the 15:17 mark. Taylor Hall centered a pass that deflected up into Wild defenseman Brett Clark’s sweater.
Clark had no clue, so he began to spin. Conveniently, the puck fell right at the feet of a goal scorer, 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov.
The puck wasn’t on the ice half a second before the Russian star popped it behind Backstrom.
From there, it was all Minnesota. Stoner played a big part in both Wild second-period goals.
First, he one-timed Justin Schultz’s rim around the boards and the puck deflected off Coyle’s leg for his seventh goal. Just 3:27 later, Stoner took a similar shot that sailed wide off the end boards.
The puck caromed back and Torrey Mitchell made a nifty backhanded touch pass to an oncoming Granlund, who scored his first goal in 25 games. Granlund was originally reassigned to Houston but called right back before his flight because of an injury to Mike Rupp.
The Wild continued to roll from there, scoring twice more in the third. Parise scored only 20 seconds into the period before Brodziak finished his night with a breakaway goal, his eighth.
“I really liked a lot about tonight’s game,’’ Yeo said. “Most important thing is you’re starting to see more resemblance of our game, longer stretches of it, more consistency of it. The more consistency you see in our game, the more consistency you’ll see with the results.”
Just like Monday, the Wild took its foot off the gas late and allowed the Oilers back into the game on goals by Shawn Horcoff and Magnus Paajarvi. A tense shooting gallery occurred late, but Backstrom and the Wild secured the victory.