By Wild Road Tripper
When you want to go to war with someone, best to have a God on your side. Especially if that deity is an Irish God.
Minnesota Wild fans saw that first-hand tonight at Xcel Energy Center, as the 'Irish God of War', Owen Nolan, still showed he has what it takes to be successful in the NHL at age 38, as he scored the eventual game-winning goal, and fought Edmonton Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray as the Wild played the role of Grinch Wednesday night, beating the Oilers 3-1 in front of an announced 18,250 (a good number of whom stayed away due to an impending blizzard in St. Paul, and the approaching Christmas holiday).
Nolan's pinpoint backhand shot late in the second period beat Oilers goalie Jeff Deslauriers high on the stick side, through a space no larger than a half-sheet of paper as the Wild took a 2-1 lead. The Oilers decided that they would take the fight -- literally -- to the Wild in the third period, as the two teams combined for 26 minutes in penalties, marked by the Nolan vs. Souray fight, Souray's first fight against a Wild player since last season, when Souray hit then-Wild winger Craig Weller with his supposedly 'soft' wrist cast in a fight.
The other fight of the night pitted Edmonton's Ryan Stone against Minnesota's Clayton Stoner, a bout that Stoner clearly won by pummeling Stone into submission with a quick series of roundhouse rights which sent Stone crashing to the ice as Stoner stood over him, wanting more. Stoner, recently called up from the AHL Houston Aeros, made several smart plays within the last few minutes of the game as the Wild defense made life miserable for the Oil, bottling them up in their own zone, no where to go.
And, speaking of going, Niklas Backstrom now goes to 14-1-0 against the Oilers all-time, the Grease being the favorite foil for the Wild's No. 1 goalie. The Wild now improve to 39 points (18-16-3) and remain two points behind Detroit in the NHL's Western Conference. The Wild now are off (mandatory) for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but they will return Saturday night for their Next Game: vs. St. Louis, Saturday night, Dec. 26 (Boxing Day), 7:00 PM Central Time, Xcel Energy Center. (Wild TV: FSNorth; Blues TV: FSMidwest, both feeds in HD; XM Radio, Ch. 239)