The Wild put together a complete game that had its coach beaming.
Wild coach Mike Yeo stepped to the podium, looked up, smiled and said something you don't hear him say very often.
"I really liked the start of our game," Yeo said. "I really liked the finish. And I really liked the part in-between, too."
That pretty much summed it up. In a 4-2 victory over the remarkably punchless Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild got a goal and three points from Mikko Koivu while Charlie Coyle and Jared Spurgeon each had a goal and an assist. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom? He was mostly a spectator, not that he minded.
"It was fun to watch," he said.
The Wild put a season-high 43 shots on Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk while allowing only 21. The Oilers, who always seem to treat Minnesota like an offensive black hole, had a 23-minute, 35-second stretch without a shot on goal, one that started late in the first period, continued through the second and into the third.
"I'm not going to say we'll do it every time," Spurgeon said. "But it is our goal to limit shots."
By the time that streak ended, the Wild finally had taken the lead for good.
It took awhile, mind you. Spurgeon's wrist shot from inside the blue line beat Dubnyk only 2:37 into the game. But Edmonton's Magnus Paajarvi tied it late in the first period when he skated from behind the Wild net and jammed the puck home.
From then through the second period, the Wild dominated in every possible way other than scoring. Minnesota outshot Edmonton 18-0 in a frustratingly scoreless second period. But history suggested that, sooner or later, the Oilers would give way and crumble.
Only nine seconds into the third period, Spurgeon fed the puck to Coyle, who pushed it into the Oilers zone. Koivu outraced both teammate Zach Parise and Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the puck, then fired a wrist shot home from between the circles for a 2-1 lead. The goal tied a team record for fastest to start a period.
Six minutes later, Coyle skated down the slot and beat Dubnyk with a backhand for his first goal at Xcel Energy Center and the eventual game-winner.
This victory was, frankly, predictable.
The Wild is 19-1-0 in its past 20 home games against Edmonton. And by stopping 19 of 21 shots, Backstrom improved to 6-1-1 in his past eight starts and to an incredible 17-0-0 against Edmonton on home ice.
And here's more: Heading into a showdown at red-hot Chicago on Tuesday, the Wild is 8-2-1 at home this season and is 7-3-1 in its past 11 games. Sunday's victory moved the Wild into sixth place in the Western Conference, two points behind Northwest Division-leading Vancouver.
All with 60 minutes' worth of all-around strong play that had Yeo unable to find a nit to pick.
"One of the most impressive things to me is the way we came out with the right focus in the third," Yeo said. "It's quite easy to deviate, easy to stray and we didn't. We just kept coming out with the same focus.''
After Coyle scored to make it 3-1, the Oilers pulled within a goal on a freak play on which Koivu's pass behind his net bounced off Edmonton forward Sam Gagner, then caromed off Wild defenseman Ryan Suter and into the net at 12:56.
But Dany Heatley's power-play goal 2:13 later pushed the lead back to two goals.
And when it was over, Yeo clearly was thrilled.
"I really liked the way we played without the puck, the way we were aggressive, pressuring and physical when we needed to be," he said. "To me, this was another level of our execution tonight."
|Atlanta||4||Top 4th Inning|
|NY Mets||0||Top 4th Inning|
|St. Louis||5||Bottom 4th Inning|
|Chicago Cubs||3:05 PM|
|San Francisco||3:05 PM|
|LA Angels||3:05 PM|
|Chicago WSox||3:05 PM|
|Oklahoma City||7:00 PM|
|LA Clippers||9:30 PM|
|Holy Cross||6:00 PM|