ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)—The Minnesota Wild played a complete game, the kind of all-around effort they’ve showed only sporadically this season.
Marc Chouinard scored for the first time in more than three months, and Dwayne Roloson earned his fourth shutout of the season to lead Minnesota to a 3-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.
“I think the guys, they knew the importance of this game,” coach Jacques Lemaire said. “You look at the entire team—try to find one player you’re not satisfied with. There’s nobody.”
With less than 25 games remaining in the regular season, Minnesota picked up a critical win and broke a tie with Edmonton for 10th place in the Western Conference. The Wild, with 57 points, have played one more game than the Oilers, who have 55 points. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
“Our consistency level has to get better,” Oilers captain Jason Smith said. “We can’t have games like this.”
Exactly what Minnesota has been saying, especially after a 3-1 loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday that drew Lemaire’s ire and led to some intense practices.
“You can start to smell the playoffs,” Chouinard said. “Guys are peaking right now, so that’s good.”
Conklin, who stopped 12 of 14 shots, broke two bones in his wrist and was replaced after the first period by Tommy Salo—who gave up a power-play goal to Dupuis in the second.
There was no exact timetable for Conklin’s return, but he and coach Craig MacTavish both said it wouldn’t keep him out for an extended period.
Roloson, making his season-high seventh straight start, made 28 saves. He benefited from sound defense and a smart, relentless offense that notched 30 shots on goal for just the seventh time all season.
“It’s good to see,” Roloson said, “and hopefully we can keep this up.”
Zholtok and Chouinard scored less than a minute apart in the first period— Chouinard’s third goal of the season and his first since Nov. 7. Edmonton’s Eric Brewer whiffed on a clearing attempt of Alexandre Daigle’s rebound in front of the net, and Chouinard poked in the spinning puck to make it 2-0.
After spending three seasons in Anaheim, Chouinard signed with the Wild this summer. He broke his jaw against Edmonton on Nov. 13, however, and missed the next 32 games while recovering from that and a viral infection that caused him to lose significant weight. This was the eighth game since his return.
“I feel better and better every time,” said Chouinard, who is still under his training camp weight of 206 pounds. “Energy-wise, I feel stronger and stronger.”
After a crazy brawl near the end of the Oilers’ 5-1 win over Atlanta Wednesday in which Conklin fought with Thrashers goalie Pasi Nurminen and 164 penalty minutes were doled out, Edmonton was at it again.
Steve Staios, George Laraque and Smith each mixed it up with various Wild players, including a second-period melee in which Minnesota’s Matt Johnson took down Laraque. Both received five-minute majors.
The fights seemed to sum up Edmonton’s frustration.
“You’d have a hard time picking a guy who played an average game, much less a good game,” MacTavish said. “You combine bad execution with poordecision-making, and it’s something we can’t overcome.”
This was Edmonton’s first-ever loss at Xcel Energy Center. The Oilers are 7-1-1 in St. Paul and 13-2-4-2 against the Wild overall. … The season series ended 2-2-2. … Edmonton LW Brad Isbister missed his fourth straight game with a sprained ankle. … The Oilers began a four-game road trip. … The Wild have the league’s worst power play at home. They went 1-for-7. … Daigle had two assists. … Salo stopped 15 of 16 shots. … Zholtok has five goals inhis last five games and 11 for the season.