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First the Vikings, and now the Wild

MINNEAPOLIS -- We should have seen this one coming. After all, there had been signs and wonders earlier in the week.

Two days after the Vikings ended a two-year losing streak on the road, the Minnesota Wild defeated the Edmonton Oilers for the first time in franchise history.

Ring the church bells, eh?

"This was great," a beaming Jacques Lemaire said. "Oh yeah. For sure. A huge relief."

First the Vikings, then the Wild rid themselves of their ultimate curse. It must be something in the water. If only the Timberwolves were involved in a playoff series this week. Anything could happen. OK, maybe that's going overboard. Still, it has been a strange couple of days.

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The Wild looked absolutely horrible for more than half of Tuesday's game. Several had the flu. Several others appeared to be afflicted with something terminal. It was as bad as I've seen them play this season. They were pasty-faced, gasping and standing still.

"We were terrible," Marian Gaborik said flatly.

"We were," seconded Lemaire.

Furthermore, they were getting mauled by the Oilers. Northwest Division rivals tend to throw their weight around. And the Wild don't have a lot of weight to work with.

"It definitely was a little bit chippy," said Matt Johnson. "There were a lot of battles along the boards."

Which was surprising because the speedy Oilers usually prefer open ice. Yet Tuesday's game was more grit than glide, as the Oilers never really turned on the burners. Maybe that should have been our first clue that something strange was about to take place.

Early in the third period, the Wild were down 3-1. They could have been down 6-1 because Edmonton missed several golden chances.

Actually, maybe that's when we should have gotten the notion that this was to be Minnesota's momentous night. Each time an Edmonton skater had an open net, he either misfired or watched the puck skid off his stick.

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When the Wild began their furious comeback assault, the Oilers appeared shocked. Why not? Everyone else in the building was. First 3-2, then 3-3. Then great power-play pressure in the closing minute. The jinx officially was broken in overtime.

In a way, it's kind of sad. Between the Vikings and Wild, we don't have anything to obsess about anymore.

Rookie Kyle Wanvig, who scored his first NHL goal, didn't quite understand all the commotion. Then someone told him it was Minnesota's first victory over Edmonton in 13 tries spread over almost 21⁄2; seasons.

"That's unbelievable," he said.

It really is. This week is going to go down in history as one of the most startling in Minnesota sports history. Too bad the Gophers football team didn't play in the New Orleans Bowl instead of having to wait for the Music City Hotel Humpty-Dumpty Whatever Bowl. If they had played Tuesday night, they would have won by 21 points.

"So much had been built up about it," Richard Park said of the streak against Edmonton.

Park had the game of his life. Without question, he was the difference. Park scored two goals, including the game-winner, forechecked like a demon and made several sparkling defensive plays deep in his own zone.

"Oh my God!" said Gaborik. "He was everywhere! It was an amazing game from him."

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The Wild needed an amazing game from somebody if they were to ever beat the Oilers. Now they sit atop the Northwest Division, two points ahead of the Canuckleheads and six points ahead of the Oilers.

So ring the church bells and set off the factory whistles. The spell is broken.

First the Vikings and now the Wild get Mighty Joe Young off their backs. No more streaks.

It feels ... weird.

Tom Powers is a sports columnist with the St. Paul Pioneer Press. His column is distributed by Knight-Ridder Newspapers.

Game story, summary, Page 3D

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