EDMONTON — There was plenty of post-Olympic rust to go around, but none seemed to stick to Darcy Kuemper in the Minnesota Wild’s net.
Kuemper made 21 saves to earn his second career shutout as Minnesota returned from the Olympic break on a winning note, defeating the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Thursday night.
"We did a real good job, we were aware of the situation and everyone was focused tonight," Kuemper said. "It was just a solid team game tonight. We had seven days of practice. You just use the first two practices to get the fundamentals back and then you worry about the next game. I stuck to my game and obviously the team played great in front of me."
Mikael Granlund, Stephane Veilleux and Dany Heatley scored for the Wild (32-21-7) who won their third game in a row.
"I think that’s our biggest strength, to have a good defensive game," Granlund said. "I thought we played good defensively and Kemps had a good game in net. We didn’t give them too much."
Wild head coach Mike Yeo said his team played far from perfect, but they will take the win anyway.
"I don’t think that we played this game at the level that we headed into the break at and I think that’s normal," he said. "I was impressed with the detail and the structure in a lot of areas, but I think our puck work can get a little better in some areas too."
The Oilers (20-34-7) have lost two in a row after winning five of their previous six.
"It was pretty embarrassing," said Edmonton forward David Perron. "Nothing was going right for us. We couldn’t generate any offence and our defence wasn’t good. It was an awful game."
It was the fifth time this season that the Oilers have been shutout at home and eighth time this season they have failed to score in a game.
"That’s not how we wanted to come back from the break at all. It seemed like there was a lot of rust on our team," said Oilers forward Taylor Hall. "Whether that was the break or whatever, it doesn’t really matter. They had the same break that we did and we just didn’t play well."
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins thought neither team really looked that good on their return to action following the long break.
"That was an ugly hockey game, I thought for both teams," he said. "It was quite amazing watching this game the number of players falling down with nothing going on around them and passes going behind players. It was firmly two teams coming off of a long break."
The game started with a bang as Oilers forward Matt Hendricks checked Wild defenceman Nate Prosser in to the boards in the first minute of play. Prosser was helped to the dressing room and did not return until the second period.
Minnesota got revenge for the hit by taking a 1-0 lead a minute later as Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens was caught out of position as Zach Parise fed the puck in front to Granlund who had an empty net to put his team’s first shot of the game into.
Each team only accounted for six first period shots apiece, with Edmonton’s best chance coming late in the period when a high bounce flipped off of Kuemper’s back and landed in the crease before being sent to safety by Jared Spurgeon.
Kuemper made a big save of his own seven minutes into the second as he was quick to come across and rob Jordan Eberle at the side of the net on the tail end of an Oiler power play.
Minnesota made it 2-0 midway through the second period as Erik Huala fought off Oiler Anton Belov behind the net to send a backhand to a primed and ready Veilleux who blasted a one-timer from the top of the circle past Scrivens for just his second goal of the season.
The Wild took a three-goal lead midway through the third as Charlie Coyle made a nice play to swing out from behind the net and find Heatley in front, who lifted his 12th of the season over a sprawling Scrivens.
Notes: Both teams saw some success before the pause in the NHL schedule as the Oilers were 5-1-1 in their previous seven games, while the Wild were 4-1-2 in their last seven. Edmonton only allowed 12 goals during that seven-game stretcha The Wild have had a great deal of success against Edmonton in recent years, coming into the game having won five of six and 14 of its last 17 versus the Oilers, including seven of their last eight appearances in Edmontona Minnesota forward Mikko Koivu is reportedly close to returning but remained out with an ankle injury for Thursday’s gamea Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom returned from an abdominal injury dating back to Jan. 30, but served as the backup to Kuempera It was Edmonton’s only home game in all of February. The Oilers last home date was on Jan. 29 when Scrivens set an NHL record for most saves in a shutout with 59 in a 3-0 victory over the San Jose Sharksa Oiler forward Nail Yakupov took a shot to the right ankle from teammate Justin Schultz in the third and did not return.