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.
"Everything we needed to went our way," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said, after his team won for just the second time in their past 21 trips to Minnesota. "Our goaltending was outstanding and we used every one of our chances."
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.
"It was not our night, to put it extremely mildly," said a subdued Wild coach Mike Yeo after the game. "But this is the group that got us here and they've done a lot of great things, and I've got a lot of confidence in this group."
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.
"We wanted to come out and spoil their party and we did," said Hall, who added two assists. "We've had games where we've run into hot goalies and we've had games where the goals seem to be going in pretty easily. If there was one game where I didn't think it was going to be that kind of night it was here in Minnesota against Backstrom. It was nice to get a few early and settle in."
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.
"It's not the way we wanted it to happen, but we're still in a good place," said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. "We win tomorrow and we're in the playoffs. That was our goal to get in the playoffs, and once you get in the playoffs you set another goal. We still control our own destiny here and we have to go in there and play our best game of the season."
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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