Minnesota Wild right wing Owen Nolan, center, scores on Edmonton Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson as Oilers\' Robert Nilsson, left, looks on in the third period of an NHL hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., Sunday, March 22, 2009. AP/Photo Craig Lassig
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Owen Nolan is doing his best to get the Minnesota Wild into the playoffs.
Nolan scored two goals to lift the Minnesota Wild to a 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.
The Wild moved within a point behind Nashville, which was idle on Sunday, in the race for eighth place in the Western Conference. The Oilers are seventh, two points ahead of the Predators.
"We're in desperate mode right now and have to get everything we can," Nolan said. "Especially playing a team that's within reach, we've got to make sure we close the gap."
Edmonton, which entered the game without a regulation loss in its previous seven games, was frustrated throughout by Minnesota. Wild goaltender Nicklas Backstrom had 31 saves for his seventh shutout of the season as the game also featured the return of star forward Marian Gaborik.
"You hate to see the 30-plus shot shutouts. That means you're getting pucks to the net," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "If you're committed enough there you should be able to get some offence. We just didn't pay as big a price as we had in the last number of games."
The Oilers outshot Minnesota 15-2 in the first period and repeatedly pressured Backstrom during three power plays. Minnesota rebounded in the second period, snapping off a franchise-record 23 shots and scoring the game's first goal on a power play. After Dwayne Roloson stopped a long-range shot, Nolan pushed the rebound over the goal line at 14:26.
"We came out and we were tight. Really tight," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "Not skating, afraid to make mistakes. We didn't move the puck well. We turned the puck over. Everyone knew we would play better in the second."
Nolan, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent last summer, scored again in the third period after a nice pass from James Sheppard at 4:26. It was the team-best 22nd goal for Nolan.
Stephane Veilleux was credited with Minnesota's third goal at 12:43 of the third. He was closest to the play when Edmonton defenceman Tom Gilbert inadvertently banked a pass off the skate of teammate Sam Gagner and into the Oilers' net.
"If you're a team that can generate 15 shots in one period against the Minnesota Wild you know you can create opportunities, so that's one positive we can take from it," Edmonton's Shawn Horcoff said.
It was just the seventh game of 2008-09 for Gaborik, who played the first two games in October, missed two months, played four games in December (scoring twice), and had been out again since just before Christmas after having hip surgery. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and turned down a contract extension during training camp.
That, and the fact that he's missed 94 games due to injury since 2005, has drawn the ire of many Wild fans. Still, Gaborik was greeted mostly with cheers, drowning out a smattering of boos, when he was introduced on Sunday.
"I was a little nervous before the game, but as soon as I hit the ice, everything went well," said Gaborik, who played just shy of 18 minutes and had six shots.
Roloson, who is 0-6-2 in his past eight starts against his former team, had 33 saves.
Notes: Minnesota's Mikko Koivu was pulled down by Edmonton's Ales Kotalik in the first period and suffered a knee injury. He left the team bench in the second period and did not return. ... The Wild coach did not sound optimistic after the game. "Losing him, it's a huge loss for our team," Lemaire said. "I'm waiting for more news. More good news." ... The Oilers are 0-8-2 in their past 10 visits to St. Paul. ... Minnesota is in a stretch of playing 14 of 17 games on the road. On Tuesday, the Wild travel to New York as they begin a four-game trek to visit the Rangers, Islanders, Flames and Oilers.