EDMONTON, ALBERTA - The Wild began its most treacherous stretch of the season by gutting out yet another come-from-behind victory Wednesday despite the losses of two key forwards.
Beginning a stretch of six of seven and 20 of the next 29 outside of St. Paul, the Wild lost Cal Clutterbuck, one of the team's most consistent two-way forwards, and checker Darroll Powe to injuries.
But playing with 10 forwards, and really nine because Brad Staubitz played one shift in the third, the Wild rallied for a 3-2, marathon-of-a-shootout victory over the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.
Former Oilers center and Alberta native Kyle Brodziak, whose second-period goal tied it, scored in the sixth round of the shootout to lift the 15-7-3 Wild back into the top spot in the NHL.
"I'm so glad that it went in," Brodziak said. "I'm pretty giddy right now. We're down 2-0, a couple guys get hurt, those are games that sometimes it's easy to pack it in and say, 'You know we'll be better next game.' "
But as coach Mike Yeo said, "Plenty of excuses if we wanted to look for one, but our guys don't do that."
Clutterbuck limped off the ice eight minutes into the second period but he originally was injured in the final minute of the first period when Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney extended his left knee and nailed Clutterbuck with an uncalled knee-on-thigh.
At that point, the Wild trailed 2-0. At that point, the Wild seemed dead in the water.
But suddenly, out of nowhere, the Wild rallied on goals by Devin Setoguchi and Brodziak 3:20 apart.
"We got a little grumpy," Yeo said.
In the shootout, Niklas Backstrom, who made 28 saves through overtime, stopped Ryan Smyth in the sixth round before Brodziak's first career shootout goal. Brodziak made it look as if he was going to the backhand, then went forehand, five-hole, a move he said was taught to him by former Oilers teammate Dustin Penner.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley also scored in the shootout.
The Wild, which couldn't score in overtime despite a 4-on-3 power play, won for the ninth time when the opposition scored first. The Wild went 11-4 in November -- a team record for victories in a month. And with 33 points in 25 games, the Wild's is in the midst of the best start in franchise history.
"Just again, a similar story to a lot of nights -- great character, great leadership and guys found a way to battle back and win a game," Yeo said.
In the first meeting since several clashes in St. Paul on Friday, the predictable Darcy Hordichuk-Staubitz dust-up happened on their first shift 2:12 in.
Then, a hockey game ensued.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who leads the rookie scoring race, gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead 9:58 into the first, then the Wild wasted a 1:16 5-on-3 when the personnel of Koivu, Heatley, Setoguchi, Bouchard and Jared Spurgeon was stationary and not crisp during a convoluted power play.
"Our power play has to be better. We know that," Setoguchi said.
But the Wild rallied, starting with Koivu setting up Setoguchi's eighth goal, tying him with Cullen for the team lead. Koivu extended his point streak to seven games. Then, late in a power play, Brodziak stuffed a rebound underneath Nikolai Khabibulin to make it a brand-new game.
If Clutterbuck is out long-term, that's significant. He had scored five goals in the prior nine games, had been a penalty-kill whiz and ranked second in the NHL in hits.
Yeo said Clutterbuck and Powe, who suffered a charleyhorse, will be reevaluated Thursday and hopes both injuries are short-term.
"Maybe we bent a little early on, but we definitely didn't break," Brodziak said.