The Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night played with an edge and an eagerness to snap out of their slump, taking full advantage of a sleepy start by Minnesota.
The Wild sure could use some of that same urgency.
Darnell Nurse gave Edmonton an early boost by scoring 2 minutes, 15 seconds into the first period as the Oilers stopped a six-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory 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, while Cam Talbot bounced back from an early exit with 35 saves for the Oilers, who were just 5-13-2 in their previous 20 games.
They squandered a third-period lead in each of those final three losses and Talbot was pulled on Tuesday night against Chicago after giving up three goals in less than six minutes out of the second intermission.
“I thought the guys played hard for him and he played hard for them,” Hitchcock said. “He’s got a little bit of confidence going right now, so that’s a good sign.”
Talbot won for the first time in four starts since Jan. 10.
The Wild picked up the pace in the second period with a 15-5 shots-on-goal advantage, but they found themselves in a two-goal hole at the second intermission because of Rattie’s tap-in of a centering feed from Nugent-Hopkins only 4 minutes, 32 seconds into the middle frame.
Joel Eriksson Ek had the Wild’s lone goal 2 minutes, 50 seconds into the third period, one encouraging sign for a team that just lost captain, center and defensive stalwart Mikko Koivu to a season-ending knee injury.
The Wild, who are clinging to seventh place and the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference, have 57 points for their lowest total at the 54-game mark since the 2005-2006 season.
Minnesota’s momentum from Eriksson Ek’s goal was wiped out less than three minutes later.
Jason Zucker checked Edmonton defenseman Kris Russell hard and sent him hurtling face-first into the left post, angering the Oilers and drawing an interference penalty the Wild disputed.
Draisaitl pushed the lead back to two for his eighth goal in the past six games.
Kassian, who also had an assist, scored on an empty-netter after the puck skipped out to him following a denial of 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.
“This was the quietest that I’ve heard it in the first period, ever, but we didn’t do anything to excite them, either,” Boudreau said.
In other games on Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes hung on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-5 in overtime, the New York Islanders won a shoot-out 2-1 over the New Jersey Devils, the Washington Capitals edged the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins outlasted the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime.
The Los Angeles Kings won a shoot-out 3-2 over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Montreal Canadiens routed the Winnipeg Jets 5-2, the Ottawa Senators crushed the Anaheim Ducks 4-0 and the Vegas Golden Knights edged the Detroit Red Wings 4-3.
The St Louis Blues edged the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 in overtime, the Nashville Predators defeated the Dallas Stars 3-2 in overtime, the Chicago Blackhawks outlasted the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in overtime, the Columbus Blue Jackets crushed the Arizona Coyotes 4-2 and the San Jose Sharks routed the Calgary Flames 5-2.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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