The Minnesota Wild hope they have dug themselves out of their slump.
Kyle Brodziak scored a pair of goals as the Wild continued their late season turnaround with a 5-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.
Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise also scored for the Wild (24-16-3), who have gone 2-0-1 in their last three games after losing five of their previous six.
“I think we’re starting to turn a corner,” Brodziak said. “It feels good to get these two points. Our team needed it. We’re still in a real tough playoff race. We went through a definite lull where we weren’t playing the way we should. But as of late, we are starting to find our game again. We still need to tighten some things up if we want to be a good playoff team, though.”
Minnesota remains in sixth place in the Western Conference playoff race.
“We are in the process of trying to get better every night,” said Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, who only faced 19 shots for the win. “There was a stretch where we had bad starts and that cost us the game, but we came out very quickly in this game. It is always nice to get the early lead you aren’t chasing them and can play your own game.
“There are a lot of good things happening as of late and we just have to keep doing it night after night. You can’t take any nights off right now.”
Nail Yakupov, Magnus Paajarvi and Shawn Horcoff responded for the Oilers (16-19-7), whose slim playoff hopes took another hit. Edmonton has lost six in a row on the heels of a five-game winning streak.
Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger said he doesn’t believe that his team has completely pulled the parachute on the season yet, despite their lack of positive recent results.
“When you are losing in a season like this, it is a bad spiral,” said Krueger. “We were striving so hard to be a part of the playoff picture this year and the disappointment has been large. It’s taking us too long to recover. Our last three home games here have been extremely disappointing. But you have to refocus. We have six games remaining and we need to grab something positive from what is left here and be a team that shows character in this challenge. We will work hard to make these games valuable.”
Once again, the Oilers found themselves behind early as the Wild scored just over a minute into the game. Brodziak sent a knuckler of a shot on Edmonton starter Devan Dubnyk and was able to get in front to knock home his own rebound for the 1-0 Wild lead.
“When you get scored on early every period its no fun. It’s a painful way to lose. I’ve been here three years and I’m tired of this,” said Oiler forward Taylor Hall. “We’ve got to start winning games just to get a better mood in here.
“Everyone cares in here. But it’s fair for you guys to judge us in this situation. It certainly sucks to lose and everybody is certainly sick of it.
Edmonton tied the game with 15 minutes gone in the opening period as Hall’s shot got caught up in the equipment of Wild defender Brett Clark before falling in front of the net where Yakupov was able to swoop in and score the 11th goal of his rookie campaign on Backstrom.
The Wild regained their one-goal edge three minutes into the second period as a point shot from Stoner clipped Coyle in front and caromed past a screened Dubnyk to make it 2-1.
Minnesota went up 3-1 three-and-a-half minutes later as a rebound off of the boards was tipped out front to Granlund who slammed it into a wide-open net with Dubnyk going the other way.
It took just 20 seconds in the third for the Wild to go up 4-1 on a power-play goal. Parise slid a puck through the crease and went behind the net untouched and still had time to backhand home his initial shot for his 16th of the season.
The Wild went up 5-1 five minutes into the third as Jason Pominville sent Brodziak in on a breakaway. Brodziak actually hit the post on his shot, but Dubnyk put it into his own net with his backward momentum.
Edmonton got a goal back at the 10-minute mark as Hall was able to sneak a pass through the crease to Horcoff, who was stationed in front and tapped home his seventh.
The Oilers made it a bit more interesting less than three minutes later as Yakupov dipsy-doodled through traffic before ringing a shot off the post. Paajarvi swooped in to hammer home the rebound past Backstrom to make it 5-3.
Edmonton pulled Dubnyk with 2:27 remaining and had several very good opportunities but could not come any closer.
The Wild conclude a three-game road trip in San Jose on Thursday. The Oilers are off until Friday when they travel to Colorado to take on the Avalanche.
Notes: It was the third of four meetings between the two teams this season, with the Wild having won both previous encounters. Minnesota has had a great deal of success against the Oilers in recent years, coming into the game having won three straight and 13 of the last 16 encounters. Minnesota had also won six of its past seven in Edmonton... It was the first game for the Oilers since Monday’s announcement that GM Steve Tambellini had been fired, with former head coach Craig MacTavish coming in as his replacement... Edmonton called up forwards Anton Lander and Teemu Hartikainen from Oklahoma City and inserted both players into the lineup. Ryan Jones and Jarret Smithson came out... It was the eighth of nine sets of games on back-to-back nights for the Wild this season. The Wild are now 5-3 in games on the second straight night... Some good news out of Minnesota as goalie Josh Harding was sent to the Houston Aeros of the AHL on a conditioning assignment. Harding has been on injured reserve since Feb. 12 as he has received treatment for multiple sclerosis... Notable absences from the Wild lineup included forward Dany Heatley (shoulder surgery) and centre Zenon Konopka (foot injury)... Out for the Oilers were Ales Hemsky (broken foot) and Eric Belanger (groin).