Finally, another win for the Wild

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 30, 2011 - 8:19 AM

The Wild stopped its eight-game winless streak, keeping the home crowd cheering with goals, hard checks and lots of scrums.

This was, as one observer so aptly put it, big-boy hockey. The Wild and Edmonton were at Xcel Energy Center Thursday, playing for the sixth and last time this season. There were skirmishes, there were sticks to the face. There were hits made, punches thrown. And -- finally, for the Wild -- there were goals scored.

The streak is over.

An eight-game winless streak in which the Wild scored just 10 goals evaporated in front of a crazy Xcel crowd in a 4-3 Wild victory that featured goals from four players, countless hits and two fights between Wild winger Matt Kassian and Darcy Hordichuk -- Kassian dominated. The game began on a high note and climbed right to the end, when -- after the Wild fought off an Oilers' power play over the final 83 seconds -- goalie Niklas Backstrom got into it with winger Ryan Smyth.

"He slashed me four times before that," Backstrom deadpanned. "So I had a lot of things to catch up [for]."

It was that kind of game, played in front of a sellout crowd that never stopped yelling.

"It was fun, wasn't it?" Wild coach Mike Yeo asked. "That was ice hockey. Both teams are probably happy to be done with each other."

Probably so. There were seven roughing penalties called. Two misconducts. Four fighting majors. Oh, and there was some nice hockey, too.

The score was tied 1-1 when the Wild got mirror-image goals 19 seconds apart to take a 3-1 lead. Kyle Brodziak got the first one started when he took the puck from neutral ice to Jarod Palmer, who broke in on a 2-on-1 rush with Cal Clutterbuck. The Oilers' defenseman went to Clutterbuck so Palmer calmly beat Nikolai Khabibulin high glove-side for his first NHL goal. Just 19 seconds later, the puck bounced over the sticks of at least two Oilers to Pierre-Marc Bouchard who broke in and scored in the same place.

That's when the party really started, with both teams trading punches.

Seconds after that Kassian -- called up from Houston for this game -- and Hordichuk got into the first of two fights. After Kassian knocked Hordichuk down, he gestured to the crazy crowd.

It was back-and-forth from there. Ladislav Smid brought the Oilers within 3-2 moments later, but Dany Heatley responded with a rebound goal 46 seconds later.

As the third period began, Kassian took Hordichuk out three seconds after the faceoff and the intensity never dipped. In the end, Marek Zidlicky had three assists, Greg Zanon two; Mikko Koivu had a goal and an assist, and Backstrom was still perfect at home against Edmonton (16-0-0).

The Wild played a hard, emotional game Wednesday in Nashville but came away with just a point. Thursday, the team played another strong game, and was rewarded.

"[Wednesday] night we felt like we played a good game," said Bouchard, whose 97th career goal moved him past Brian Rolston into fourth place in franchise history. "We got a point, but it wasn't enough. Tonight, we had another solid effort. It felt good to get two points."

Snapshots: Brad Staubitz depositing Theo Peckham in the Oilers bench after he had jumped to hit him, and Backstrom nearly taking off Ryan Jones head as he interfered in the crease in the third period.

"In a game like that, there's not much thinking," Heatley said. "Very physical, couple fights, crowd was into it. Fun game to play."

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