Welcome Home! Minnesota Native Matt Cullen Propels Wild Past Edmonton Oilers

Nick MaxsonCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2010

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 14: Mikko Koivu #9 and Antti Miettinen #20 of the Minnesota Wild celebrate a goal by Koivu in the second period during their game against the Edmonton Oilers on October 14, 2010 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

In the State of Hockey it was a night of celebration filled with red carpets and red jerseys as the Minnesota Wild kicked off their season at home with a 4-2 win over Edmonton Thursday night.

Minnesota came into the game still looking for its first win of the season after dropping two close games in Finland as part of the NHL premiere series.

Edmonton was undefeated and looking to keep the momentum going after victories over Calgary and Florida.

The first period was dominated by Minnesota, who used an outstanding forecheck to help sustain offensive pressure, keeping the Oilers backed up in their own zone.

Minnesota tallied first with a goal from Antti Miettinen on the power play from a beautiful set-up from Andrew Brunette.

However, the Wild had their own penalty woes with five penalties alone in the first period.

With a strong penalty kill and help from everyone on the ice, Minnesota killed all five Edmonton power plays in the first period and took a 1-0 lead into the locker room.

The Oilers came out of the gate in the second period looking to switch the momentum in their favor as they picked up their physical game, causing the tide to turn in their favor.

Dustin Penner notched a power play goal just three minutes in. Shortly afterwards, Tom Gilbert lifted one past the glove of Niklas Backstrom, who was screened in front and Edmonton had its first lead of the night.

Mikko Koivu then came to life for Minnesota as he scored a power play goal on a beautiful set-up from Matt Cullen.

Koivu notched another goal just 52 seconds later on a rebound shot from Andrew Brunette, and the Wild had regained the lead at 3-2 after two periods of play.

The third period belonged to the Wild and Minnesota native Matt Cullen.

Cullen added some insurance by tallying the team's fourth power play goal of the game as he blasted one past Nikolai Khabibulin to make it a 4-2.

Despite a late rush by Edmonton, the Wild, with a solid defensive effort, were able to hold on and capture their first win of the season.

"If you are going to be a successful team, you have to be good at home and this was a big step towards that," Cullen said. "It feels great, it was a big game for us."

With all the goals coming on the power play, Minnesota was happy, but knows more goals will have to come at even strength.

"It always looks good when the puck goes in the net," Andrew Brunette said. "It's not always going to be the case, and can't always rely on that to swing things around but it was big tonight and it was big when we needed it." 

Special teams can be difference maker in a hockey season, and teams finishing in the top 10 of each of the special teams categories usually make deep playoff runs.

With the power play going so well, center Mikko Koivu said that Minnesota was doing nothing special.

"Well we are just trying to keep it simple shooting pucks to the net and getting rebounds with guys around the net," he said.

Being in Finland was like a homecoming for Koivu and the other Finnish players on the Wild roster, but back in Minnesota it seemed that Mikko and the two others felt more comfortable in front of the crowd of 18,000.

"It's a good feeling to get the first win, being the home opener you're always nervous and you never know what to expect," he said.

Last season, as well as the past nine, Minnesota has always played well at home, and last season it was the road that killed the Wild.

Even Koivu knows it's looking too far ahead to judge what will happen on the road.

"We will just enjoy this one now, and when we go on the road we will see about that," Koivu said.

Minnesota will face Columbus on Saturday again at home looking to keep the home ice advantage with another win at the "X."


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