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After worst start of season, Wild’s Filip Gustavsson back on track

SEATTLE — Filip Gustavsson needed that. So did the Wild.

The Wild did a lot of good things in Friday night’s 4-2 victory at Edmonton, but keeping the Oilers’ prolific offense out of scoring areas wasn’t one of them, Gustavsson was up to the challenge, stopping 41 of 43 shots in a big win that kept them in the heat of the Western Conference playoff race.

Gustavsson was awarded the Vikings helmet as player of the game, and it’s hard to argue with the decision. The Oilers put 20 shots on goal in the third period but only one found the back of the net, a power play goal by Zach Hyman.

It was a welcome about-face for the young goalie who in his previous start was pulled from a 10-7 victory over Vancouver last Monday after allowing five goals on 16 shots in two periods.

“One of those nights where nothing works,” Gustavsson said.

It was a much different story on Friday as the Wild held the Oilers, one of the top-scoring offenses in the NHL, scoreless at even strength, and snapped Edmonton’s nine-game home points streak at 8-0-1.

The Wild were outshot by the Oilers, 43-18.

“I just saw his competitive battle level was higher than it was before,” coach John Hynes said after the game. “I think when Gus is playing his best, he’s fighting through screens, fighting for rebounds, he’s strong at the net front in those battles and those situations. He was much-improved in those areas, and therefore his game was better.”

Marc-Andre Fleury was slated to be in net for the Wild’s late game against the Seattle Kraken on Saturday at Climate Pledge Arena.

Gustavsson hasn’t quite been the goaltender he was in 2022-23, his first full NHL season, when he was 22-9-7 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in 37 starts, earning him a three-year, $11.25 million contract extension last July.

It hasn’t gone as well this year — 16-13-3 with a 3.28 GAA and .896 save percentage through Friday. But the Wild, missing their top veteran defenseman for much of the season, haven’t been nearly as good in front of him.

And he has shown flashes of brilliance, too, and Friday was a timely instance. It didn’t hurt that Matt Boldy scored two goals, either. He now has seven goals and 14 points in his past 10 games.

“Those games that are the most important, where the really good players step up and play their best, too,” Gustavsson said after Friday’s game. “I think most of the guys in here love playing those games, when it’s really on the line and everyone really wants to push and expects you to show up and win the game.”

It’s going to be like that the rest of the season.

Revenge

Speaking of doing a 180, the last time Brodin was in Edmonton, he was checked into the boards by Evander Kane, broke his arm and missed the next 17 games.

On Friday, he scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, his fifth of the season.

“Yeah, last time wasn’t that fun,” he said.

His shot through traffic found its way to the net and beat Calvin Pickard to the far side.

“I don’t know, I think it was kind of lucky — a lucky bounce today,” he said. “I think it hit his glove a little bit. I’ll take it.”

Briefly

Joel Eriksson Ek is the Wild’s goals leader with 28 goals, four more than second-place Kirill Kaprizov, and entered Saturday’s game eight goals and 15 points in his past 10 games.