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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

Predators.

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

said.

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."

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

shots.

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

advantages.

"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."

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