Oilers show they're more competent than cursed

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 26, 2011 - 8:52 AM

The Xcel Energy Center hex was no more after Edmonton, with its stable of gifted high draft picks, ended its 17-game losing streak in St. Paul.

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Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Smyth (94) shoots the puck under Minnesota Wild's goalie Josh Harding, left, for a goal as the Wild's Nate Prosser, rear, defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, in St. Paul, Minn.

Photo: Tom Olmscheid, Associated Press

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It's impressive the Edmonton Oilers didn't throw their sticks and gloves in the air, and it's a shame NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman couldn't have been in Minnesota to present some kind of trophy.

The "so-called curse," as Wild coach Mike Yeo called it, is over 58 months after it started.

The Wild's triumphant home streak over the Oilers ended at 17 games Friday with a 5-2 loss when Edmonton's young guns showed that this is a very different version of the Oilers than the one the Wild is accustomed to dominating.

They're fast, they're brash and they're certainly explosive.

Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, scored twice; Taylor Hall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, scored once and had an assist; and Jordan Eberle, the 22nd pick in the 2008 draft, had two assists.

"They've got a lot of young talent, and they bring it," said goalie Josh Harding, beaten four times on 28 shots.

"They're the real deal," added defenseman Justin Falk, who along with partner Nate Prosser was on the ice for three goals.

It was Edmonton's first victory in St. Paul since Jan. 16, 2007. In front of his friends and family, Tom Gilbert, the Oilers defenseman who hails from Bloomington, played in all 17 losses.

"Maybe we should have had champagne in the room," Gilbert said. "Biggest relief is we don't have to answer any more questions from you guys about our record here."

It was the Wild's first loss in six games, first home loss in seven and first loss to Edmonton in nine.

Even during the Wild's hot streak -- Friday's was only its third loss in the past 13 games -- the Wild has spotted teams leads and had to play catch-up. Seven times since Oct. 20 it's needed a big third period to win. The most recent example came Wednesday against Nashville.

"The Nashville game, you could be down a goal, but it was like, 'Man, we deserve better,' " Yeo said. "I'm not sure we had the same feeling tonight because of penalties we took or turnovers that we made or lack of attention to detail or even focus in our game.

"Sometimes you can flip the switch, but tonight we couldn't find it."

Ryan Smyth and Nugent-Hopkins built the Oilers a 2-0 first-period lead before Devin Setoguchi trimmed it to 2-1 with 10 seconds left in the period on a 5-on-3. The Wild eventually tied it when Oilers killer Pierre-Marc Bouchard picked Nugent-Hopkins' pocket and suavely scored on a breakaway.

But late in the second, Hall gave Edmonton its lead back when Harding couldn't hang on to Gilbert's point shot.

Niklas Backstrom is 20-2-1 all-time against the Oilers and 15-0 at home with a 1.19 goals-against average and .954 save percentage. But Harding got the start for the Wild because Backstrom became a father Wednesday.

"If we thought that Back's focus was completely there and we thought his energy was completely ready to go in this game, then we likely would have gone with him," said Yeo, who wasn't blaming Harding. "We were just flat-out not good enough around our net, an area where we're usually pretty good."

A big example came on Shawn Horcoff's goal that gave the Oilers a 4-2 lead in the third.

Prosser couldn't hold the offensive blue line, then Falk blew a tire as Ales Hemsky hit an open Horcoff, who lost Mikko Koivu. The Koivu-Dany Heatley-Setoguchi line was minus-3.

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