UNIONDALE, New York (AP) — Marian Gaborik and the Minnesota
Wild escaped Long Island with two important points, no new
injuries, and a calling card for the young and physical New York
Gaborik, playing just his third game after missing three months
following hip surgery, had two goals and two assists, Andrew
Brunette and Owen Nolan each scored once and set up two others,
and the Wild beat the Islanders 6-2 on Wednesday night to snap a
five-game road losing streak.
Outside of the key win that kept Minnesota in the thick of the
Western Conference playoff race, much of the talk was about the
Islanders, who featured a lineup of guys trying to make it in
the NHL that took every chance to hit and rough up the Wild.
“They tried to run us out of the building, but our guys kept
coming,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said of the Islanders, who
took 13 of the 23 penalties. “It’ll be interesting next year
when we play them.”
Things got so out of hand in the third period that the teams
played 3-on-3 for a stretch.
“I think it goes back 40 years ago when I was playing,” said
Lemaire, a 10-time Stanley Cup winner with the Montreal
Canadiens. “I was like numb. I didn’t know what to tell them
because we never play 3-on-3.”
After the Wild fell behind 1-0, Gaborik and Antti Miettinen
connected in the first period to give Minnesota the lead.
Nolan’s power-play goal in the second made it 3-1, and
defenseman Martin Skoula pushed the advantage to three in the
third for the Wild, who earned a road victory for the first time
since they beat Anaheim on March 8.
Minnesota jumped over St. Louis and tied ninth-place Nashville
with 78 points in the West. The Wild were 2-7-2 in their
previous 11 road games – averaging only two goals per contest.
Brunette and Gaborik added third-period goals as the Wild
matched a season-high with six. Niklas Backstrom made 32 saves.
“We had to get this game no matter what and just do our job
defensively and make sure that we’re disciplined,” Gaborik said.
“There were some players running around, but that’s what it is.”
The Islanders (24-41-8), closing in on clinching the NHL’s worst
record, got goals from defenseman Bruno Gervais and Andy Hilbert
in their first home game following a 2-3-1 road trip. New York
had been 9-2-2 at home before then. Yann Danis stopped 22 shots.
“It’s a team that really has got nothing to play for so you have
guys going out there kind of not really caring if they take
stupid penalties at stupid times,” Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck
said. “That’s what they did and it cost them. It’s a good thing
nobody got hurt.”
Gaborik tied it at 1 at 11:46 of the first with his second goal
in two nights. After missing 38 games, Gaborik has three goals
in three games.
It is much-needed offense for the defensive-minded Wild, who
were again without captain and leading scorer Mikko Koivu,
sidelined by a knee injury. Gaborik scored his first of the
night by redirecting Marek Zidlicky’s pass in front.
Minnesota needed only 10 seconds of its second power play to
grab the lead. New York’s Joel Rechlicz, who earlier fought John
Scott, was off for roughing when Miettinen made it 2-1 with 1
minute left in the first.
The period ended roughly near the tunnel to the Wild’s dressing
room. Miettinen hit Blake Comeau as a security guard prematurely
opened the door, and Islanders forward Kyle Okposo jumped in.
The fracas created only a pair of roughing penalties, but Okposo
– a Minnesota native – yelled at Clutterbuck on the Wild bench
as he was led off the ice.
“They did some lippy stuff that I let get to me more than I
should have,” Okposo said. “That’s my fault. I’ve got to work on
that. He is an agitator and he did his job. That’s what he does.
He goes out and hits and runs his mouth.”
Gervais, who had gone 160 games and nearly three years without a
goal before he scored on March 2, found the net for the third
time in 11 games to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 7:37.
The rest of the game belonged to the Wild. One night after
Minnesota recorded three shots in the first frame and 19 overall
in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers, the playoff hopefuls
fired 11 pucks at Danis in the opening 20 minutes.
Hilbert brought the Islanders to 4-2 at 6:24 of the third
period, but Brunette restored Minnesota’s three-goal lead with
3:49 left. Gaborik scored his sixth of the season on the power
play with 1:17 remaining to make it 6-2.