Rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins helped the Edmonton Oilers end a dubious streak in Minnesota.
Nugent-Hopkins scored twice and Ryan Smyth had a goal and an assist as the Oilers beat the Minnesota Wild 5-2 on Friday.
Taylor Hall and Shawn Horcoff also scored for Edmonton, which won for the first time in 18 games in Minnesota dating to Jan. 6, 2007.
”Coming into tonight it was just a different feeling,” said defenseman Tom Gilbert, who grew up in a Twin Cities suburb. ”We were energetic about tonight and we dictated it from the start.”
The Oilers have won three of four overall, scoring a combined 20 goals in the trio of victories. They scored one goal in the loss.
”The last couple of days we’ve got a lot of questions about how we’re kind of an inconsistent team. Tonight, we played three pretty consistent periods,” Hall said. ”We knew we were bound to break out offensively at some time. It’s great that it’s happening now. We just have to maintain that every game.”
The line of Nugent-Hopkins, Smyth and Jordan Eberle had three goals and three assists, while the Hall-Horcoff-Ales Hemsky trio had two goals and three assists.
”We know we have the horses to really come back from any situation,” Horcoff said. ”We got a confidence. . . . It’s nice to know that when you come out and stick to the game plan we’re given we have a chance to win every night.”
Devin Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored for the Wild, who lost for the first time in six games. Minnesota entered the game with a league-best 29 points.
Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 30 shots to win for just the second time in six starts. His best save was sliding across the crease to make a right pad stop on Matt Cullen late in the second period.
”He was really dialed in, good and squared,” said coach Tom Renney.
Hall gave Edmonton a 3-2 lead at 15:39 of the second period, poking home a rebound of a shot by Gilbert that Josh Harding didn’t see lying near the right post. Hall has seven points in his last four games.
Horcoff gave the Oilers a little breathing room scoring on a one-timer from low in the right circle midway through the third period for a 4-2 cushion. Minnesota has won four games when trailing in the final period, and seven of its 13 wins have come when trailing or tied after two periods. This time there was no comeback.
”Certainly we have been playing with fire, spotting teams the lead lately,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo. ”There have been a lot of nice stories about us coming back and keeping with our game, but that’s something we have to definitely be better at.”
Nugent-Hopkins added an empty-net goal for his 10th point in his past four games.
”We’re really proud of this win,” Hall said. ”We did all the little things from start to finish and we closed out a game, which is huge. For us we’re feeling very confident right now.”
Smyth put Edmonton on the board at 5:15 of the opening period. Jordan Eberle spun around in the left circle to deke Andrew Falk, and sent a pass to Smyth who was being checked by Nate Prosser in the crease, but was able to poke the puck past Harding.
”We had a bit more trouble coming out of the D zone, and they’re the real deal. Their young guys are skilled and they got on our mistakes and put the puck in the net,” Falk said.
Nugent-Hopkins scored on a power play with 3:31 to play in the period, pushing the puck across the line during a goalmouth scramble, before Setoguchi countered during a two-man advantage in the period’s final seconds, lifting a rebound past a downed Khabibulin to make it 2-1.
Bouchard stole the puck from Nugent-Hopkins at center ice and went in alone, beating Khabibulin 5-hole, to tie the game midway through the second period.
NOTES: It was Minnesota’s first regulation loss in seven games against a division foe. The Wild are 13-4-2 against the Western Conference. … Ray Whitney, Edmonton’s best defenseman, returned to action after missing 11 games with a sprained knee. … Minnesota has played at home the day after Thanksgiving every season of its existence, going 7-3-1. … Edmonton LW Darcy Hordichuk played his 500th career game. … The game was just the second sellout of the year for Minnesota, and the first since opening night.