ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -Marian Gaborik is off to the races again, and so are the Minnesota Wild.
Gaborik's scored his fifth goal in five games on a breakaway wrist shot with 2:39 left in overtime to give the Wild a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Friday night.
With Gaborik and Pavol Demitra healthy, the Wild got off to an NHL-best 7-0-1 start to the season. But both were felled by groin strains during a November swoon, but now they're back, and it's no surprise that the Wild have won three in a row for the first time since opening the season with five straight victories.
"It's coming, so hopefully I can keep it going as long as I can," Gaborik said. "Now we're playing at home and it's important to get these wins."
The winning goal was vintage Gaborik.
He corralled a loose puck about 5 feet inside the Minnesota zone, wheeled, and saw nothing but open ice in front before he turned on the jets. One of the fastest skaters in the NHL, Gaborik skated in on Manny Legace and beat him on the stick side.
Brian Rolston scored his first goal in 10 games, and Brent Burns also scored for the Wild.
"It was nice to get that goal," Rolston said of a slap shot 9 seconds into the second period, which set a franchise record for the fastest goal scored to start a period. "Obviously I haven't scored in a few games. More than a few. That's an understatement. It's just one of those things. We think they are going to come in bunches now."
Lee Stempniak and Brad Boyes scored for St. Louis, which overcame an early 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the second period, but couldn't get the final goal thanks to some nifty goaltending by Niklas Backstrom.
Backstrom was rarely tested in the first two periods, but came up huge in the third period and overtime to thwart the Blues.
He stopped a breakaway by Jamal Mayers with 4:46 to play in regulation, then made three saves on point-blank shots in overtime before Gaborik ended it.
Backstrom finished with 22 saves, and Legace had 23 for St. Louis, which had won seven of its previous eight games.
Stempniak's goal in the second period was his first in 20 games. He said it was nice to "get the burden off the shoulders," but he concentrated more on his turnover that led to Gaborik's breakaway goal.
Stempniak held the puck in the left circle and thought he heard a teammate call for a drop pass, but the only person in the area was Gaborik, who was gone in a heartbeat.
"Just an irresponsible play by me," Stempniak said.
The Blues have shown plenty of grit this season in getting off to a surprising 14-8-1 start. Signing Paul Kariya and bringing Keith Tkachuk back has provided a nice veteran backbone to complement a promising group of youngsters, including Boyes.
His team-leading 15th goal of the season came on a beautiful give-and-go with Kariya that tied it at 2 in the second period. Boyes carried the puck across the blue line, slipped a drop pass between his legs to Kariya and barreled toward the net.
Kariya fed a perfect touch pass back to Boyes, who beat Backstrom.
The game grew testy in the third period when St. Louis defenseman Barrett Jackman hit Wild center James Sheppard in the face with the butt end of his stick. Wild tough guy Todd Fedoruk tried to start a fight with Jackman immediately after the play, but Jackman backed down.
"They are a good team and we are trying to become a good team," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "We gave them all they could handle tonight, if not more."
Notes: The Wild's Mark Parrish (hip) was a scratch after being listed as probable on Thursday. ... Blues RW David Backes, a native of the Minneapolis suburb of Blaine, initially was listed as out for the game with a knee injury. But Backes was in the lineup for the first time in 10 games, and was active in the first period. ... Sheppard left the game briefly after the hit from Jackman but did return.
|PPG - Brent Burns (6) ASST: Brian Rolston (9), Pavol Demitra (7)|
1 - 0 MIN
|Brian Rolston (8) ASST: Eric Belanger (12), Martin Skoula (3)|
2 - 0 MIN
|Lee Stempniak (2) ASST: Bryce Salvador (5), Eric Brewer (5)|
2 - 1 MIN
|Brad Boyes (15) ASST: Paul Kariya (18), Erik Johnson (5)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Marian Gaborik (10) ASST: NONE|
3 - 2 MIN
|Pierre-Marc Bouchard Delay of game|
|Manny Legace Delay of game|
|Ryan Johnson Interference against Eric Belanger|
|Todd Fedoruk Holding against Christian Backman|
|Martin Skoula Hooking against Keith Tkachuk|
|Erik Johnson Hooking against Matt Foy|
|Todd Fedoruk Holding against Barret Jackman|
|Eric Brewer Tripping against Marian Gaborik|