Gaborik's 2 goals keep Wild in hunt for playoffs
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 Islanders.
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 - a point behind eighth-place Edmonton and two behind Anaheim. 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.
The teams met for only the ninth time, with Minnesota holding a 6-3 edge. ... It was the Wild's first visit to Long Island since Dec. 13, 2005, when Gaborik scored twice in a 4-3 win. ... Islanders C Nate Thompson earned his first NHL assist on Hilbert's goal.