ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -Marian Gaborik added to his career-high goals total, now 42, on a defining night for a career that began 7 1/2 years ago - the first time the Minnesota Wild took the ice.
Gaborik scored twice in the third period to help the Wild beat the Calgary Flames 3-1 on Thursday night for their first Northwest Division title.
The only player left from the franchise's inaugural team, Gaborik - named captain in March, his first such honor - came through at the perfect time.
"If we want to do well in the playoffs, he's the guy that's got to play. He's got to be at his maximum," said Minnesota's Jacques Lemaire, who also earned his 500th career victory and became the 12th coach in NHL history to reach that mark.
Yes, it was quite a night at Xcel Energy Center, as Wild players gave their just-worn jerseys to contest winners after a loud celebration in the crowd to warm up the vocal chords for next week. Minnesota will be the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and have an extra home game for at least the first round.
"It was incredible," defenseman Brent Burns said. "Especially out there, it was pretty sweet to do it in front of our fans."
Gaborik nearly had a third score, sandwiched between the two that counted, but that was waved off because of a whistle while the puck disappeared from plain sight beneath a scrum of bodies in the crease.
Miikka Kiprusoff made 23 saves for Calgary, which stayed stuck in seventh place - but backed into a guaranteed spot in the playoffs when Vancouver lost to Edmonton. That eliminated the Canucks, but the bottom four slots could all change by the end of the weekend.
The Flames could end up facing the Wild, who probably would not prefer that. This was only their second win against Calgary in eight meetings, and despite a quiet performance in this game, All-Star Jarome Iginla has been unstoppable against Minnesota.
Plus, Kiprusoff (19-6-3) has by far the most victories against the Wild by any opposing goalie.
But this might have served as an opening salvo of sorts.
"We keep going like this, we'll be good," Gaborik said.
For the night, though, it was time to savor.
"It ranks right up there," he said, adding: "It's a great feeling for myself and every guy in this room. It's a great accomplishment to have a banner up there."
Daymond Langkow's power-play wrist shot gave the Flames the lead just 2:41 into the game, but Todd Fedoruk - one of Minnesota's tough guys and rarely an offensive threat - answered in a man-advantage situation minutes later.
The second period was slow, and then the Wild made their mark down the stretch.
"I imagine a lot of teams are pushing right now and pressing a bit, but that's part of it," Iginla said. "These games are big games. You play the whole season down to the last few and the division comes down to the last few, so every team's in the same boat."
In the final minute of the opening frame, Dion Phaneuf knocked Stephane Veilleux flat with a blind-side hit that riled up the Wild. Seconds later, right after a stoppage of play, Burns confronted Phaneuf and dropped his gloves for a drawn-out fight that stretched across the entire width of the ice. Both players landed several punches, and Burns had his jersey ripped off.
Those major penalties carried into the second period, and another infraction - on Dustin Boyd for delay of game - gave Minnesota a 4-on-3 that nearly netted the go-ahead goal. Calgary made a careless line change, and suddenly Kim Johnsson was on a rush up the right side all by himself.
He made a crossing pass to Gaborik, who didn't handle the puck cleanly as he tried to one-time it into the corner of the net.
Kiprusoff, that old Wild nemesis, suddenly appeared and knocked the puck away with his pad. That was Gaborik's only shot on goal in either of the first two periods.
Notes: Gaborik has 10 multi-goal games this season. This was his second straight. ... Iginla has 46 points in 43 career games against the Wild.
|PPG - Daymond Langkow (30) ASST: Jarome Iginla (46), Adrian Aucoin (25)|
1 - 0 CGY
|PPG - Todd Fedoruk (6) ASST: Pavol Demitra (36), Marian Gaborik (41)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Marian Gaborik (41) ASST: Pavol Demitra (37), Keith Carney (10)|
2 - 1 MIN
|PPG - Marian Gaborik (42) ASST: Kim Johnsson (23), Sean Hill (7)|
3 - 1 MIN
|Eric Belanger Holding against Dustin Boyd|
|Dustin Boyd Hi-sticking against Pierre-Marc Bouchard|
|James Sheppard Tripping against Stephane Yelle|
|Kristian Huselius Holding against Martin Skoula|
|Dion Phaneuf Interference against Stephane Veilleux|
|Dion Phaneuf Fighting (maj) against Brent Burns|
|Brent Burns Fighting (maj) against Dion Phaneuf|
|Dustin Boyd Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Stephane Veilleux Hooking against Daymond Langkow|
|Jim Vandermeer Slashing against Marian Gaborik|
|Anders Eriksson Hooking against Stephane Veilleux|
|Brian Rolston Holding against Jim Vandermeer|
|Cory Sarich Tripping against Brian Rolston|