A franchise-record winning streak has led to the Minnesota Wild’s first playoff berth in four years. Their postseason run, though, may not last long if they keep struggling down the stretch.
Minnesota will try to avoid a season-high tying fourth straight defeat when it hosts the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night in the first of back-to-back meetings at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild (45-26-8) reeled off nine straight wins—all in regulation—from March 8-24 to help clinch their first postseason trip since 2002-03. But they’ve dropped three in a row since then, including a 2-1 loss to Colorado on Saturday. Minnesota last lost four in a row from Nov. 25-Dec. 2.
The Wild’s offense has managed only three goals, all with the man advantage, during its latest losing streak. Marian’s Gaborik’s goal 81 seconds to the game was all they could muster against the Avalanche, exasperating coach Jacques Lemaire.
“Our defensemen turn the puck over more than ever. I know they’re not ready to play,” said Lemaire, whose team has a franchise-record 98 points, but trails division-leading Vancouver by three points. “The mind is not there (for) some of them.”
Minnesota has won three straight and four of six this season from Edmonton (31-41-7). The Wild are 26-7-5 at home, where they wrap up the regular season against the Oilers on Thursday and St. Louis on Saturday.
Gaborik, who has 29 goals in only 45 games, had the go-ahead tally in a 2-1 win over the Oilers on March 15 giving him six goals and two assists in five games against them this season.
Edmonton has dropped 16 of its last 17 games - a stretch that began with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota on Feb. 25 - and will miss the playoffs after advancing to the Stanley Cup finals last season. The Oilers lost their fourth straight after falling 2-1 to Chicago on Sunday.
Raffi Torres put Edmonton on the board first, but after allowing the tying goal early in the second period, the Oilers gave up a short-handed goal less than 3 minutes into the third.
“Our undoing tonight was our power play,” Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said after his team was 0-for-5 with the man advantage. “We got too aggressive.”
The loss was the Edmonton’s season-high seventh in a row on the road—two short of the franchise-record for longest road losing streak set from Nov. 25-Dec. 30, 1980. After its final meeting with the Wild, Edmonton will wrap up its season Saturday at Calgary.
The Oilers’ injury-plagued defense may be without Mathieu Roy, who missed Sunday’s loss with a concussion. Fellow blue-liners Steve Staios (knee) and Jan Hejda (shoulder) each have missed the last 12 games.