ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Though Marian Gaborik's season will still be
considered a disappointment, he's trying hard to finish strong.
Gaborik netted the go-ahead goal in the third period against Minnesota
nemesis Jean-Sebastien Giguere, giving the Wild a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim
Mighty Ducks on Sunday.
Dwayne Roloson made 18 saves, and rookie Rickard Wallin had a goal for
Minnesota, which scored on Giguere for just the fourth time in eight games _
including last year's Western Conference finals.
``Obviously we have been having a lot of trouble to score against him,''
Gaborik said. ``It was good to get a couple goals.''
Good for Gaborik, especially, who shares the team goal lead with Alexandre
Daigle with 16. An All-Star last year who was the third-highest scorer in the
NHL playoffs, Gaborik missed the first 12 games of this season during a
contract dispute. He has been off his game for much of the time since.
``He's feeling much better,'' coach Jacques Lemaire said. ``He's just
starting to feel good about himself and feel confident.''
Niclas Havelid scored for the Mighty Ducks, whose recent dominance of the
Wild ended. Anaheim followed its four-game sweep in last year's playoffs by
going 2-0-1 in the first three games this season.
``That's been the story of the season, losing close ones,'' captain Steve
Rucchin said. ``That's what happens when you refuse to work. ... When you don't
come prepared on a nightly basis, it's tough. The guys on the ice haven't
gotten the job done. It's no one's fault except ourselves.''
After their improbable meeting in last year's playoffs, both the Wild and
Mighty Ducks have fallen hard. They enter the final week of the regular season
with nothing on the line other than draft position and auditions for future
Minnesota is in 11th place in the West with 77 points, and Anaheim is one
spot behind with 74. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time teams
met in the Stanley Cup semifinals one season and missed the playoffs the next
was 34 years ago.
Montreal and Los Angeles matched up one round before the finals in the
1968-69 postseason and didn't qualify in 1969-70.
``It's disappointing,'' Anaheim coach Mike Babcock said. ``I didn't feel at
any point in the season that we got to the level of play we should be at.''
Giguere, whose brilliance was a big force behind Anaheim's run to the
Stanley Cup finals last year, has struggled all season _ except against
Minnesota. Including this game, he has stopped 195 of his last 199 shots
against the Wild.
Giguere, who made 20 saves, was sharp until Gaborik's nifty move with 7:42
left. He stopped behind the goal, swooped in front of the crease, faked right
and dumped a shot past Giguere's stick to make it 2-1.
``We got a little confused in our defensive zone, and he took advantage,''
Giguere said. ``He had a lot of time to make the play, and he did a nice job.
Give him credit.''
Gaborik was certainly pleased.
``It's hard for the goalie to react on that kind of move when the play
stops,'' Gaborik said. ``It worked for me, so I'm glad.''