NIKLAS BACKSTROM and the Minnesota Wild were fed up.
With the way the Edmonton Oilers were playing against them. With two losses in a row to their soon-to-be-former division rival. With an eight-game losing streak that sent them tumbling out of first place in the NHL.
Dany Heatley scored his third goal in four games to help the Wild snap out of its skid and beat the visiting Edmonton Oilers, 4-3, last night in a snippy game from start to finish.
"At some point, enough is enough," Backstrom said.
Even he, the stone-faced goalie, got riled up.
"We get run over two or three times every game and keep hearing it's an accident," he said. "So, you know, I think we're smarter than that. It's not by accident."
Oilers left wing Ryan Smyth even took a swing at Backstrom during the final skirmish of the night as the game ended.
"He slashed me four times before that, so I had a lot of things to catch up on," Backstrom said in his usual deadpan.
Mikko Koivu, Jarod Palmer and Pierre-Marc Bouchard also scored for the Wild, which went 0-5-3 following a seven-game winning streak. Backstrom improved to 16-0-0 at Xcel Energy Center in his career against the Oilers, the best record of any NHL goalie at home against a single opponent.
Marek Zidlicky had three assists and fellow defenseman Greg Zanon had two for the Wild, whose 17-game home winning streak against the Oilers ended on Nov. 25. The Oilers have lost six straight road games since. They fell to 3-8 in December.
Taylor Hall, Ladislav Smid and Shawn Horcoff scored for the Oilers, who have lost six of their past seven games. Their only win was against the Wild last week.
"I love emotion in our game, and we had emotion right down the line," Wild coach Mike Yeo said.
In the last game between these teams as Northwest Division opponents - realignment next season will send Minnesota to a new grouping - the action was every bit the essence of an NHL rivalry. There were plenty of tussles in their game in Edmonton last week, and this one was just as tense.
Matt Kassian fought Darcy Hordichuk twice, both times taking down the Oilers' enforcer. He pumped his arm after the first one to encourage the fans and twirled his finger after the second one as he skated off.
Wild bruiser Brad Staubitz took a hit from Theo Peckham and dumped him over the boards into the Oilers bench at one point, drawing a loud roar from the sellout crowd, and even the goalie got into the fray.
Backstrom wrapped his arm around Ryan Jones - jockeying for position in the crease - in the third period and slammed him to the ice. Backstrom was called for roughing, but a bewildered Jones got 2 minutes for goaltender interference.
"I like the fact that it was emotional and there was some animosity," Oilers coach Tom Renney said, adding: "That's good. The outcome of a lot of games should result in that. It makes for good rivalries. It's almost unfortunate that we're done with these guys this year."
Said Heatley: "There's going to be some bad blood. It makes for fun hockey."
In other games:
* At Denver, Gabriel Landes-kog's third-period goal gave the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.
* At Dallas, Rick Nash scored twice, Steve Mason made 36 saves, and the Columbus Blue Jackets registered their first regulation road win of the season, 4-1 over the Stars.
* At Winnipeg, Evander Kane scored 69 seconds into overtime to give the Jets a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Chris Mason made 31 saves for the shutout.
* At Uniondale, John Tavares scored a goal and added an assist, and Evgeni Nabokov made 29 saves to lead the New York Islanders to a 3-1 win over Calgary.
* At Raleigh, Eric Staal scored 3:09 into overtime to lift the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-3, comeback win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Staal had two goals and an assist. Cam Ward made 21 saves for Carolina, which rallied from a two-goal deficit.
* At Tampa, Vincent Lecavalier had a tiebreaking goal midway through the third period, Steven Stamkos got his 23rd of the season, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Montreal Canadiens, 4-3.