Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
The Edmonton Oilers entered Tuesday night's game against the Minnesota Wild riding a three-game winning streak and were playing at home with the NHL points leader (Connor McDavid). Such things meant absolutely nothing to the Wild as they defeated the Oilers 5-2, snapping the Oilers winning streak, winning for the eighth consecutive time in Edmonton and holding McDavid without a point for the third time this season.
Yes, it was a good night for the Wild.
Minnesota was led by a spectacular performance by backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper who entered the game allowing over three goals per game and left allowing just two.
"He played great. I thought it was his best game of the year," Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Kuemper's performance Tuesday night. "He controlled rebounds. That's been sort of a little bit of a problem in the past when he's had a rough night, but tonight, he controlled them really well and caught pucks and settled things down for us when we needed them settled down."
Kuemper finished the night with a team season-high 41 saves on 43 Edmonton shots and even tallied the first point of his NHL career - an assist on a Chris Stewart goal early in the third period.
Getting the start to provide All-Star goalie Devan Dubnyk another night of rest, Kuemper turned in his best performance of the season.
"It's been kind of funny because I've felt good, especially lately, and sometimes the result just hasn't been there," Kuemper said after the game. "It was nice to feel good in there and keep the score down. I just have to keep working and the guys made it pretty easy on me tonight."
Such a lockdown performance by Kuemper helped to keep McDavid, the aforementioned NHL points leader, without a point, meaning that in the three games the Wild and Oilers have played this season, McDavid has no points.
"It's been fortunate for us that he hasn't had his best games against us," Boudreau said. "But in one game he's going to break out, you know that."
Kuemper was helped by an unlikely Wild player who had a great performance Tuesday night: Tyler Graovac.
Graovac opened the scoring after he collected a loose puck in front of Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot, slid to his left and fired it past the Edmonton goalie to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. Jason Zucker and Zach Parise would both add goals to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead before Edmonton could finally sneak on the board thanks to an Adam Larsson goal and cut the lead to 3-1. But less than two minutes after Larsson's goal, Graovac stepped up once again and scored his second goal of the game.
After Mikael Granlund intercepted an Edmonton clearing attempt, he made a pretty move to get the net before sliding it across to Graovac who laced the one-timer past Talbot stick side to give the Wild a 4-1 lead.
“It’s nice to be able to chip in any way you can," Graovac said. "Whether it’s winning big faceoffs or being good defensively, or creating momentum for the next line. That’s our job as a fourth line. It just helps everybody.”
Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl would add his 20th goal of the season to close the second period and cut the Oilers deficit to 4-2, but Stewart's five-hole goal on a long pass from Zucker immediately after exiting the penalty box pushed Minnesota's lead to 5-2 and sealed the victory.
“We wanted to start this road trip off on the right foot here,” Stewart said. “Four big games, this was a hot team, so it was a good test and we answered the bell.”
The Wild are now 22-3-1 since a December 4 overtime victory in Edmonton, have won nine of their last 11 games and closed out the month of January with a 10-2-1 record.
Minnesota will look to win their fourth-straight game Wednesday night as they travel to Calgary to take on the Flames.