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Leafs Can't Tame Wild

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
January 18, 2006

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)
-- Marc Chouinard had two goals for the Minnesota Wild in a much-needed 5-3 victory over the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

Kurtis Foster chipped in a power-play goal, and slumping Marian Gaborik and Wes Walz also scored for the Wild, who improved to 17-0-0 in games when they score four or more.

Chouinard's second goal into an empty net clinched the game for Minnesota after Jason Allison pulled the Maple Leafs to within a goal. Allison fired a slap shot past Manny Fernandez with 1:25 remaining after the Minnesota goaltender gave up a long rebound.

Matt Stajan scored short-handed, and Alexei Ponikarovsky added a power-play goal for the Maple Leafs, whose losing streak reached a season-high four.

Minnesota beat Toronto for the first time in five meetings since the franchise's inception more than five years ago. The Maple Leafs were the only team the Wild had yet to defeat.

Toronto, which dropped a 5-3 decision to the Avalanche in Denver on Tuesday, lost the second game of a back-to-back set for only the second time in 10 tries.

As Minnesota's first draft pick (2000) and first all-star (2003), the speedy Gaborik has created great expectations but failed to fulfil his promise because of injuries and inconsistency. This season, he's been up-and-down again _ entering the night with just one goal in his previous eight games.

With the Wild leading 3-2, Gaborik streaked past defenceman Ken Klee through the left circle and stuffed a short shot past diving goalie Mikael Tellqvist.

After Ponikarovsky scored the tying goal for Toronto, Chouinard gave Minnesota the lead back late in the second period. After his helmet fell off in the middle of the opponent's zone, Chouinard stayed in position and successfully redirected a cross-ice, pass from Randy Robitaille on the man advantage.

Fernandez made 19 saves for the Wild, while Tellqvist stopped 18 shots for the Leafs.

Energized by a 4-2 win over the Red Wings in Detroit on Jan. 3, the Wild were on the brink of eighth place in the Western Conference and about to begin a seven-game homestand. But Minnesota lost four of their next five, including an embarrassing 6-1 decision to the powerful Ottawa Senators on Monday, and fell back with the rest of the non-contenders.

The game began ominously for the Wild when, on a power play, centre Brian Rolston committed an unforced turnover in his own zone. His nearest teammate, defenceman Andrei Zyuzin, wasn't looking. Stajan almost comically skated between the two, easily snagged the loose puck and barrelled into Fernandez as he scored less with than three minutes elapsed to ignite a roar from the hundreds of Leafs fans in attendance.

Minnesota showed more life after that, strengthening the forecheck and putting the pressure on Tellqvist. Like Toronto did at the beginning of the first, the Wild picked up an easy one early in the second period. Carlo Colaiacovo blindly passed from the boards to an unaware captain Mats Sundin, allowing Walz to swoop in between the circles and slam the unguarded puck past Tellqvist for a 2-1 lead.

Notes: Minnesota left-wing Pascal Dupuis was scratched because of a separated right shoulder that's expected to keep him out two weeks. He got hurt in Monday's game against Ottawa. ... The Maple Leafs have scored 12 short-handed goals this season, tied with the Senators for first in the NHL. ... Foster's eight goals lead Minnesota defencemen.
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