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Oilers 6, Wild 1

The SportsXchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Needing just one win to clinch a playoff spot, and facing a slumping team they had historically dominated, the Minnesota Wild seemed destined to make quick work of the Edmonton Oilers. But on this night, nothing went according to plan.

The Oilers, who had lost nine of their previous 10 games, scored on six of their first 11 shots and cruised to a 6-1 win, stunning a sellout crowd of Wild fans hungry for their first playoff clincher in five years.

Nail Yakupov and Corey Potter each had a pair of goals for Edmonton, and Nikolai Khabibulin won for the first time in a month, frustrating the Wild with 38 saves.

Mikko Koivu got the only goal for Minnesota, which closes the regular season on Saturday night at Colorado and must beat the Avalanche to earn the franchise's first post-season appearance since 2008.

The tone was set right from the opening faceoff, when Minnesota's Zenon Konopka and Edmonton's Mike Brown dropped their gloves for a lengthy fight. Less than half a minute later, the Oilers took a 1-0 lead, scoring on their first shot of the game when Potter ripped a shot from atop the right circle past Wild starting goalie Niklas Backstrom, who had lost his stick seconds earlier during a scramble in front of the net. It was just the second goal of the season for Potter.

Hall doubled Edmonton's lead later in the early stages of the first period with a wrist shot from close range that beat Backstrom on the glove side. When Potter scored again late in the first, giving the Oilers a 3-0 lead after just five shots on goal, Backstrom was lifted in favor of Josh Harding.

Harding, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during the lockout last fall, hadn't played since Feb. 7. He allowed three goals in the second period and finished with nine saves in relief.

The Oilers finish the regular season on Saturday night in Edmonton versus the Canucks.

NOTES: After more than a decade as Northwest Division rivals, Friday's game was the last divisional meeting between the Wild and Oilers. Next season Edmonton will be in the still-nameless conference that is the most western of the four new brackets in NHL realignment. It will include the Oilers, Flames, Canucks, Sharks, Kings, Ducks and Coyotes. Minnesota will face more Central Time Zone foes, with the Jets, Blues, Blackhawks, Predators, Stars and Avalanche in their new conference. The Wild won the Northwest Division just once, in the 2007-08 season. ... Backstrom's struggles versus the Oilers were something that fans in Minnesota had never witnessed in person. The Finnish goalie was previously 17-0-0 at home versus Edmonton. ... Teemu Hartikainen's latest stint with the Oilers lasted four games. Edmonton sent the rookie winger down to their AHL team in Oklahoma City. The Finn played a total of 23 games with the Oilers this season, scoring one goal and adding two assists.

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