Nugent-Hopkins scores two in Oilers’ win over Wild

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 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.