Gaborik powers Wild past Stars

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — Marian Gaborik is finally healthy,
skating and shooting as if he doesn’t want the season to end.

Gaborik kept up his remarkable scoring rate with a goal and two
assists, and the Minnesota Wild avoided elimination from the
playoff chase for at least three more days with a 3-1 victory
over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.

“It’s always nice to score … but we got two points. We got a
great win. It’s huge,” Gaborik said, hardly exaggerating.

The Wild moved within one point of Nashville for ninth place
after the Predators lost to Chicago, but St. Louis played at
Phoenix later Tuesday. Minnesota hosts Nashville on Friday and
finishes the regular season Saturday at Columbus, but is
currently trailing in tiebreakers with both the Blues and the
Predators and will need plenty of help to qualify for the
playoffs for the third straight year.

“Buy your tickets. Get in line. It’ll be interesting,” coach
Jacques Lemaire said, looking ahead to the game against

Eric Belanger and Owen Nolan each scored on the power play in
the second period off rebounds of shots by Gaborik, who has
eight goals and five assists in nine games since returning from
hip surgery. Injuries have limited him to 15 games all season,
but he has 11 goals and seven assists and has scored in five
straight games.

“That’s exactly what we know he’s capable of doing,” Lemaire

Gaborik, who became the second player in Wild history to appear
in 500 games with the team, set the tone late in the first
period by poking in a perfect touch pass from Andrew Brunette
while James Sheppard screened Dallas defenseman Andrew
Hutchinson. Gaborik has frequently been a streaky scorer, but
when on the ice this season he hasn’t had any lulls.

“He’s well-rested,” said Brunette, grinning as he teased his
friend. Brunette added: “When he’s going like he is right now,
going to the net and finding holes and stuff, he’s unstoppable.”

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The Wild, who haven’t won two games in a row since Feb. 21-22,
swarmed Stars rookie Matt Climie after a sluggish first period.
Cal Clutterbuck was all over the ice, with six hits and eight

Climie, who won his debut on Saturday despite giving up four
goals to St. Louis, finished with 29 saves.

“Second period, he was under siege,” coach Dave Tippett said.
“We could’ve protected him a lot better than we did.”

Dallas has struggled on the penalty kill all season.

Nolan, the 37-year-old who still has a hard nose for the net,
has done more than his share to pick up the slack during
Gaborik’s absences. This was his 25th goal in 57 games, coming 5
minutes after Belanger’s. After spending some of the season near
the top of the league in power play success, the Wild have been
in a slump in those situations lately — falling to 15th in the
NHL after scoring on only seven of their previous 58 man

“We are who we are here right now,” Tippett said. “Some of those
mistakes come back to bite you. We had ample opportunities in
the game to capitalize on some chances and we didn’t, and we
gave them some glorious chances and they scored.”

The injury-burdened Stars, who were officially crossed off the
list of contenders over the weekend, are 2-7-2 in their last
nine games. This was their only loss to the Wild in four
meetings this season.

Niklas Backstrom, making his team-record 19th straight start in
goal for the Wild, made 27 saves. The Stars peppered him in the
first period and finally scored with 12:34 left in the third on
Fabian Brunnstrom’s 2-on-1 goal, but the All-Star was as stout
as ever with a variety of tough stops.

“Really, it was one and done, as far as shots and plays to the
net,” said veteran center Mike Modano. “There really wasn’t much
sustained around there. Then, eventually, they got their legs
going and took over the game.”