ST. PAUL, Minn. — Darnell Nurse gave reeling Edmonton an early boost by scoring 2:15 into the first period, and the Oilers stopped a six-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory Thursday night over Minnesota that sent the Wild to their fourth straight loss.
Ty Rattie, Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian also scored, Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each had two assists, and Cam Talbot made 35 saves for the Oilers, who were just 5-13-2 in their previous 20 games.
Joel Eriksson Ek had the Wild’s lone goal 2:50 into the third period , an encouraging sign for a team that just lost captain, centre and defensive stalwart Mikko Koivu to a season-ending knee injury . Eriksson Ek was recalled from the AHL to take Koivu’s place.
Minnesota’s momentum was wiped out less than three minutes later. Jason Zucker checked Edmonton defenceman Kris Russell hard and sent him hurtling face first into the left post, angering the Oilers and drawing an interference penalty the Wild disputed. Twenty seconds into the power play, Draisaitl knocked in a pass from Alex Chiasson to push the lead back to two.
Kassian, who also had an assist, scored on an empty-netter after the puck skipped out to him following a denial of Mikael Granlund on the other end by Talbot.
With a snowstorm swirling outside all day and keeping some fans away, the energy in the arena was already substandard. Then the Oilers took the lead on the first shot on goal of the game, when Nurse stepped into a pass from McDavid and let the puck fly from the top of the left circle past goalie Devan Dubnyk’s glove.
The Wild picked up the pace in the second period with a 15-5 shots-on-goal advantage, but Talbot stayed strong. The Wild misfired on a handful of prime opportunities, too. They found themselves in a two-goal hole at the second intermission, because of Rattie’s tap-in of a centring feed from Nugent-Hopkins only 4:32 into the middle frame.
The Wild, who began the game in seventh place in the Western Conference in control of the first wild-card spot, are 0-2-2 since their eight-day break for the All-Star break and the annual bye week. The Oilers started the day in 12th place, but they’re now only three points behind the Wild.
The Oilers made fourth-line centre Kyle Brodziak, who has a minus-12 rating, a healthy scratch for just the second time this season and the first since Oct. 11. Rookie Colby Cave replaced him in the lineup. “We need better from that position,” Hitchcock said before the game. … The Oilers scored 14 goals in three games this season against the Wild, winning two. … Eriksson Ek has three goals in 36 games this season.
Oilers: Return home to face San Jose, before beginning a three-game road trip to take on Eastern Conference teams.
Wild: Play at New Jersey on Saturday afternoon, followed by a Sunday afternoon game in New York against the Islanders.
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Dave Campbell, The Associated Press