Zucker's quick goal helps Wild jump past Oilers
By Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange
Minnesota 4 Edmonton 1
SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild left winger Jason Zucker had 18,000 people show up for his 22nd birthday party, and he gave them a further reason to celebrate Thursday.
Zucker set a team record when he scored just eight seconds into the third period -- the fastest home goal to start a period in team history -- as Minnesota cruised to a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
Right wingers Jason Pominville and Justin Fontaine and defenseman Nate Prosser added goals for the Wild (26-19-5), who are winners of six of their last eight games.
"Walking out for that third period, I was thinking, 'boy, it'd be nice to grab another goal here quick,'" joked Wild coach Mike Yeo.
Zucker opened the final period with a successful rush to the Oilers net, taking a cross-ice pass from left winger Dany Heatley and catching Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens out of position. It was Zucker's fourth goal of the season, and all of them have come since he was recalled from the Wild's minor league team in Iowa on Jan. 1.
For Edmonton (15-30-5), center Jordan Eberle scored in the second period, but the team fell to 2-6-2 in its past 10 games. Scrivens, acquired Wednesday in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings, made 29 saves for the Oilers.
"We did so many things well in our own zone. It was just a couple mistakes that seemed somewhat innocuous at the time, but those are the ones that end up in the back of your net," Scrivens said.
It was the 20th appearance of the season, but the first in an Oilers jersey, for the goalie, who grew up just outside Edmonton in Spruce Grove, Alberta. He fell to 7-6-4.
"Hopefully we can shore those up and keep ourselves in games, give ourselves a chance to win some games," Scrivens said.
Pominville scored the lone goal of the opening period, making a pretty move around Scrivens after center Mikael Granlund stole the puck behind the Edmonton net and fed it to the goalmouth.
"It was nice," said Pominville, who leads the Wild with 19 goals. "I think it was a good play overall. (Granlund) just forechecked really hard. I don't know if he got his stick on it or not. I gave him a yell and he just kind of knew where I was and flipped it over to the area."
The Oilers tied the game early in the second period when Eberle capped off a 2-on-1 rush to the net after a Wild turnover, snapping a wrist shot past Minnesota goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
Edmonton controlled play for long stretches in the second period but could not get another shot past Kuemper to take the lead.
"We've got to find a way to get that second goal," Oilers left winger David Perron said. "When it's 1-1 we're not assertive enough in the game. Once it's 4-1 we start trying to make a comeback, but that's too big of a lead."
Instead, the Wild got goals from Prosser -- his first of the season -- and Fontaine two minutes apart late in the period to lead 3-1 after 40 minutes.
"Even at 2-1, I was still comfortable, and then that third one gets turned over and it's an odd-man rush the other way, and now it's big trouble," said Oilers coach Dallas Eakins.
Kuemper finished with 20 saves for the Wild, improving to 3-2-0.
NOTES: Thursday night was the 1,000th regular-season game in Wild history. They entered the league as an expansion team in 2000, going 456-400-143 in their first 999 games. ... Newly acquired Oilers C Matt Hendricks made his Edmonton debut in his home state. Traded to the Oilers from the Nashville Predators on Wednesday, Hendricks is from the Minneapolis suburb of Blaine and played collegiate hockey at nearby St. Cloud State. ... Wild D Keith Ballard was back on the ice for the first time since Jan. 7. He was a healthy scratch in four consecutive games. ... Edmonton was without RW Ales Hemsky after he suffered an ankle injury earlier in the week during a game in Dallas. While the severity of the injury was not revealed, some speculated that Hemsky's spot on the Czech Republic's Olympic team might be in jeopardy. ... The Oilers' four-game road trip concludes Saturday when they visit the Winnipeg Jets. The Wild play the last of four consecutive home games on Saturday, hosting the Dallas Stars.
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