They played like it, though. They had to.
"It was desperate hockey," Burns said.
Burns tapped in the tying score with 5:16 left in regulation for the Wild, who trailed 4-1 late in the second period after giving up a franchise-record two short-handed goals.
"We're still trying to figure out what kind of team we are," said captain Ethan Moreau, who played in his first regular-season game in more than 14 months. "It's going to be imperative we find out pretty quick, because everyone knows it gets a lot tougher in the second half."
Andrew Cogliano and Fernando Pisani also had goals for last-place Edmonton, which fell 10 points behind Northwest Division co-leader Minnesota. The Oilers played two of their best periods of the year, but Brian Rolston's goal late in the second gave the Wild momentum.
The winners spent most of the last 20-plus minutes in the offensive zone, and defenseman Steve Staios was whistled for hooking a minute before Nummelin's dramatic shot.
Marian Gaborik also scored in the third period for Minnesota, breaking his mini-slump following the NHL's first five-goal game in 11 years.
Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson stopped 30 shots, 14 in the first period.
"He's a world-class goalie. If you're not going to shoot, you're not going to score on him," Burns said.
The Wild, who moved into a tie for the league lead with their eighth short-handed goal against, were brimming with confidence afterward.
"We just started working, and they packed it in a little bit," Rolston said. "They were a little fragile, and we kept going at 'em and eventually we got the goals."
Kim Johnsson's power-play slap shot was the only score for Minnesota until Rolston's goal. Dustin Penner's tip-in for Edmonton was waved off by video review early in the third, and Gaborik brought the Wild closer with his wide-open one-timer from just inside the circle.
Since scoring five goals on Dec. 20, Gaborik had a minus-eight rating and only seven shots on net in the three games and two periods that followed before snapping back to life down the stretch.
"It was rough, definitely," Gaborik said.
With the crowd roaring and the Wild racing all over the ice, it seemed only a matter of time until the home team would take the lead.
"We sat back, and we let them take their game to us, and that's the opposite thing of what you've got to do," center Kyle Brodziak said, adding: "Really disappointing."
Moreau, who helped lead the eighth-seeded Oilers to the Stanley Cup finals in the summer of 2006, missed all but seven games of last season due a dislocated shoulder. Then, in September, he took a slap shot off his foot and wasn't able to suit up again until Saturday.
"Ethan played great. Gave us a lot of jump in a lot of areas, took the puck to the net. Thought he played very well for his first game," coach Craig MacTavish said.
Moreau made a sleek move to maneuver around Burns and slide the puck through the crease to Cogliano in the first period. Cogliano knocked it off the back of Backstrom's pad and into the net for the bad-angle goal to beat all bad-angle goals.
Coach Jacques Lemaire has been frustrated by the Wild's lack of consistency since starting the season 7-0-1. When they've lost, it's often been by a lot to one of the NHL's top teams.
Sandwiched around Christmas were humbling defeats by Detroit (4-1) and Dallas (8-3), before a bounce-back victory at Phoenix on Thursday. The letdown last week against the Red Wings came two days after the 6-3 win over the New York Rangers when Gaborik got his five goals.
Pavol Demitra was penalized in the final minute of the second period for cross-checking Pitkanen, who fell and slid face-first into the corner boards. Pitkanen writhed in pain on the ice for a while before being helped off and into the locker room. "Dangerous play," MacTavish said. "That's how guys break their backs." ... The Wild record for short-handed goals allowed in one season is 14, set in 2000-01, the franchise's first season. ... Burns established a career best with his eighth goal this season. He's also well on pace to break the Wild season record for points by a defenseman, set by Lubomir Sekeras in 2000-01 with 34. Burns has 22 points.