ST. PAUL, Minn. — The only times Connor McDavid‘s super skills have been absent from the ice this season were those 37 games he missed because of that broken collarbone.
Otherwise, the rookie sensation has put on quite the show.
Zack Kassian set up McDavid’s winner. With Wild defenceman Jared Spurgeon trying to slow him down and steer him wide of the net, the 19-year-old McDavid reached out and snapped the puck underneath goalie Darcy Kuemper‘s arm to give the Oilers the lead.
“You just try and put it on net. You’re kind of at an awkward angle, coming in fast,” McDavid said. “The goalie doesn’t really know how to play that, I don’t think. Probably should have been a save, but we’ll take it.”
McDavid has 14 goals and 21 assists in 33 games.
“I’m glad I don’t have to defend him because I know I wouldn’t catch him,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “But it’s not as much as surprise anymore. Where it’s very deceptive is those last three or four strides. When you think you have him he’s still pulling away.”
Lauri Korpikoski scored in the first period and Cam Talbot made 29 saves for the Oilers, who won for the fifth time in their last seven games and stuck the Wild with a costly loss in their competition with the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
“We just thought we were going to show up,” interim coach John Torchetti said.
Zach Parise‘s second goal in his last 19 games forged a tie in the second period for the Wild, who trail the Avalanche by two points in the standings. The Wild have played one fewer game, but the Avalanche have two more wins in regulation.
“They’re rolling and they’re not making it easy on us, that’s for sure,” Kuemper said. “We’re still in a good spot with games in hand, but we’ve got to take advantage of that. The games just keep ticking away, so you don’t want to let points slip away.”
Kuemper played in place of Devan Dubnyk, who has been sick, and stopped 23 shots.
Talbot is 5-1 in his last six starts, with just seven goals allowed.
“We’re a stingy group that plays well both sides of the puck,” Korpikoski said. “A lot of 2-1, 3-2 games that we’re able to win that we weren’t early in the season.”
The Wild were 21-3-1 in their last 25 home games against the Oilers. Minnesota’s 47 wins all time against Edmonton are the most against any opponent.
The Oilers reunited McDavid on a line with fellow former first overall draft pick Taylor Hall, with Kassian tagging along. The slick-skating centre missed 37 games because of a broken collarbone earlier in the season, the biggest of many setbacks the Oilers have endured in 2015-16.
The Oilers were even more depleted along the blue line than they’ve been lately, with defenceman Darnell Nurse starting a three-game suspension for initiating a fight Tuesday with San Jose Sharks defenceman Roman Polak, whom the league deemed an unwilling combatant in the scuffle.
The Wild failed to take advantage, with too many turnovers in the neutral zone and failing to send pucks deep into the zone with any kind of verve. They went 0 for 4 on the power play and left the ice to a few boos, a sound they’ve heard more than once at home during this disappointing season that prompted a change in coaches from Mike Yeo to Torchetti.
Right wing Jason Pominville had his streak of 231 straight games played, tied for the second-longest in franchise history, stopped because of a lower-body injury.
“We want to have a better effort than that going out,” Spurgeon said. “It’s just disappointing.”
NOTES: Parise, who leads the Wild with 191 shots on goal despite missing 12 games, scored at home for the first time since Jan. 10 against New Jersey. … McDavid has seven points in his last seven games. … The Wild announced this week that their season ticket prices will increase by an average of 4 per cent. Last season, they had a 97 per cent renewal rate, the second-highest in franchise history. Their sellout streak reached 99 straight regular-season games, dating to Dec. 5, 2013. … Jordan Eberle led the Oilers with five shots. … AHL goaltender Stephen Michalek was recalled from Iowa before the game as Wild’s emergency backup.