The Edmonton Oilers lost in regulation for the first time in two and a half weeks on Tuesday (April 12), falling 5-1 to the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul. Following a terrific stretch in which they were 6-0-1 over their last seven outings, the Oilers were never in the game at the Xcel Energy Center, despite outshooting the Wild 28-23.
Edmonton fell behind just 5:37 into the contest when Wild forward Frederick Gaudreau put the puck behind Mikko Koskinen. Minnesota then built its lead to 5-0 before the Oilers managed to get on the board, with Leon Draisaitl scoring while on the power play early in the third period to spoil Cam Talbot’s shutout bid.
With the loss, Edmonton’s record drops to 42-26-6, but they still remain second in the Pacific Division with 90 points, two ahead of the third-place Los Angeles Kings. The Oilers now trail the division-leading Calgary Flames by nine points.
Here are three takeaways from what was just the latest ill-fated trip to the North Star State for the gang from Oil Country.
Minnesota Hasn’t Been Kind to the Oilers
The Wild have the Oilers’ number, plain and simple. They are 3-0 against the Oilers this season and have outscored them 16-5 in the process, including wins of 4-1 and 7-3 at Rogers Place on Dec. 12 and Feb. 20, respectively.
This is no recent trend, either. Since the Wild entered the NHL as an expansion franchise in the 2000-01 season, the Oilers are just 35-48-4-10 (W-L-T-OTL) against their Twin Cities tormentors and have won only six of their last 33 visits to Xcel Energy Center.
So what gives? Well, one of the reasons this latest incarnation of the Wild gives Edmonton such headaches could be the Oilers’ defencemen struggles with Minnesota’s trademark intense pressure (more on that in a moment). And it’s not like Edmonton is the only team having a hard time this season with the Wild, who have the third-most points in the Western Conference at 96.
The good news is the Oilers won’t see the Wild again during the regular season, and if they cross paths in the postseason, it almost certainly won’t be until the Western Conference Final. And if Edmonton is one of the last four teams standing this spring, a feat not achieved since 2006, the magnitude of advancing that far for the first time in 16 years will mean that no one cares who the opponent is.
Game to Forget for Oilers Blueliners
While Koskinen finished with a sub-.800 save percentage, the veteran netminder isn’t at fault for Minnesota scoring five goals nearly as much as the men playing in front of him, particularly the student-teacher defensive pairing of future Hall-of-Famer Duncan Keith, 38, and 22-year-old Evan Bouchard.
Bouchard and Keith committed two giveaways apiece, some of which can be attributed to the Wild’s aggressive forecheck, but others were just flat-out personal gaffes, with the most egregious leading to the opening tally by Gaudreau.
The Wild forward couldn’t have asked for a better set-up from one of his own teammates than the gift he got from Keith, who cleared the puck from behind Edmonton’s net directly onto the stick of Gaudreau as he was skating through the circle to the right of Koskinen. In the blink of an eye, the game went from scoreless to 1-0 Minnesota, and the Oilers never recovered.
Keith finished the game with a rating of minus-4, which is tied for the 13th worst rating ever by an Oilers player in a single game and is the third time in their last eight games that an Oilers blueliner registered a rating of minus-4 or worse.
Bouchard was minus-3, equaling the worst rating of his young NHL career. The 6-foot-3 rearguard has been struggling lately, with a minus rating in five of his last 10 games. This is his first full season in the NHL, and it appears he hit the rookie wall 10 weeks ago and still hasn’t rebounded: Through Jan. 31, Bouchard had nine goals and a plus-5 rating in 41 games; however, since the start of February, he’s scored just once and is minus-6 in 32 games.
Draisaitl Sets Franchise Record
Finally, some positive news to close on: Draisaitl’s goal was his 51st of the season, which is a new career-high, surpassing his previous best of 50, established in 2018-19.
Related: Oilers’ Draisaitl and McDavid Can Reach Milestones Before Season Ends
Even more notable is that the goal was his 21st scoring with the man advantage in 2021-22, which isn’t just a career-high, but a new franchise record, breaking the previous mark of 20 set by Wayne Gretzky in 1983-84 and equalled by Ryan Smyth in 1996-97.
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There are very few scoring records that aren’t held by Gretzky, but this is now one of them. That’s a testament to the generational greatness of Draisaitl.
Nashville Up Next
The Oilers complete their two-game road trip with a stop at Bridgestone Arena to take on the Nashville Predators on Thursday (April 14).
With just eight games remaining on their regular-season schedule, the Oilers’ hopes of catching the Flames for the Pacific Division’s No. 1 seed are slim at best. Their primary concern has now become holding off the teams on their heels, the Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights.