Wild stay in thick of playoff race

BY foxsports • March 30, 2009

With little margin for error, the Minnesota Wild are playing playoff hockey just to get into the postseason.

Marian Gaborik had a goal and an assist and the Wild remained in the tight Western Conference playoff race with a 3-2 victory over Edmonton 3-2 on Sunday night.

"The water is up to here," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We'll start with winning the next one. We want the guys to get ready for the next game and focus on one game at a time and hope the teams that are ahead of us lose."

Andrew Brunette and Martin Skoula also scored, and Niklas Backstrom made 31 saves to help the 11th-place Wild move within three points of eighth-place St. Louis.

"I'm happy for this team," Niklas Backstrom said. "We are never going to give up. That is not what we are all about. We have come back in different games and hope that we can do that in the standings right now."

Lemaire credited Backstrom.

"We were lucky that we had him," Lemaire said. "He was really on his game there. Especially at the end."

Fernando Pisani and Ales Kotalik scored for Edmonton. The 10th-place Oilers have lost four of their last five to fall two points behind the Blues.

"We played poorly and got what we deserved," coach Craig MacTavish said. "Too many guys are too content to be a non-factor rather than be a factor and step up and be assertive in a game that you desperately need. With six games left we are still looking for a team that will take charge of an opportunity."

The Wild opened the scoring 7 minutes in when Gaborik's whiffed shot was picked up in front of the net by Brunette, who stuffed a backhand shot past Dwayne Roloson for his 20th of the season. Minnesota made it 2-0 1:51 later when Skoula's shot from the point skittered between Roloson's legs.

"It's pretty much my fault isn't it?" said Roloson, coming off a 51-save effort in victory over Anaheim. "Two bad goals. You don't let those two bad goals in and you win the game. I have to do my job and stop the puck. If I did that tonight than we would have won, case closed."

Edmonton got on the board 1:04 into the third period. Ethan Moreau held off Marc-Andre Bergeron and sent a backhand pass in front of the net, where Pisani was able to tap it through the goalie Niklas Backstrom's legs.

But the Wild restored their two-goal cushion just 3 minutes later with an extra man on the ice due to a delayed penalty call. Gaborik used a screen in front and deftly picked the corner for his seventh of the season.

Edmonton pulled within a goal with 5 minutes left. Ales Hemsky spotted Kotalik open at the top of the faceoff circle and he beat Backstrom to make it 3-2.


Captain Mikko Koivu returned to the Wild lineup after missing the last three games because of a leg injury sustained in a collision with Edmonton's Kotalik. ... Oilers defenseman Ladislav Smid left the game in the second period after breaking his left hand. ... Roloson made his 32nd consecutive start for the Oilers.

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