The Edmonton Oilers wanted to get into a track meet, and for too much of Tuesday’s game, the Wild obliged.
When you’re playing a team with the flash and pizazz of four No. 1 overall draft picks — Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — it’s best not to get lured into their game.
The Wild’s two-goal, first-period lead evaporated and ultimately Minnesota faced a third-period deficit. But the Wild began to forecheck, made the Oilers play the defense they don’t like to play, and it irrevocably paid off with a come-from-behind 4-3 victory at Xcel Energy Center.
“Once we figured out that their structure’s really good in the neutral zone, we weren’t stubborn, we got it in, we got in on the forecheck and once we got below the goal line, we had a ton of chances starting in the second half of the second period,” said Thomas Vanek, who assisted on Charlie Coyle’s game-winning goal 43 seconds after Ryan Suter tied the score in the third period with his second goal of the game.
Coyle delivered after coach Mike Yeo sent him a loud-and-clear message by demoting him to the fourth line for much of the second period.
“I knew I had to come out better in the third personally,” Coyle said. “I don’t think I was playing my game. I get away from things sometimes, and you can’t do that. I just tried to respond in the third there, get back to my game and make something happen.”
Coyle did by intercepting Eric Gryba’s rim-around attempt. Not long after, Coyle, with Anton Lander draped on him, muscled his way to the net and backhanded Vanek’s goalmouth pass by goalie Cam Talbot.
Yeo later rewarded Coyle by putting him on the ice in the last minute, and he was a beast.
“You want players to have an edge and push back, and I think he showed some pride,” Yeo said. “I didn’t see as much of Charlie Coyle as I would have liked to have seen [in the first two periods]. He’s a guy who arrives on the body, he’s a guy that is a physical presence and demands the puck and plays with speed.”
The Wild got first-period goals by Suter and Marco Scandella (on a great assist by Vanek), but Taylor Hall and Iiro Pakarinen made it a 2-2 game by early in the second. The Wild finally started to get pucks deep and sustained offensive-zone pressure starting with some impressive cycles by the Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu lines.
The Wild didn’t get the go-ahead goal, but the desired effect came in the third because the Oilers’ undermanned blue line looked worn down.
Yes, Darnell Nurse, the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft and nephew of former Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb, scored his first NHL goal 3:38 into the third to give Edmonton a 3-2 lead, but that seemed to jar the Wild back and Suter and Coyle eventually ignited the comeback.
“The first half of the second period, we were not good. We were awful,” said Suter, who had his first multigoal game since his Jan. 4, 2014, hat trick, against Washington. “We were turning pucks over. They were forechecking us. It’s tough to play ‘D,’ especially against a group of guys like that.
“They have so much skill, you have to make them defend. Second half of the period, we got some zone time and it really paid off for us.”
The Wild, one of two unbeaten teams at home in the NHL (4-0), avoided consecutive regulation losses for the first time this season. And Dubnyk, the former Oiler who is 33-11-2 with the Wild, avoided his first consecutive regulation losses with the Wild. He finished with 22 saves.
The Wild is 21-3-1 in its past 25 games against the Oilers at home since Feb. 25, 2007.
Suter bounced back from his only tough game this season, and finally was rewarded for what has been plenty of scoring chances.
“It’s funny how it works, and as long as we win, nothing else matters,” Suter said.