It was opposite day post-game, as Jacques Lemaire did his presser first, followed by player availability, since the players took a bit longer with Jerseys off Their Backs.
A big win, obviously, for the Wild, as we watch St. Louis play Phoenix from the press box. The Blues fell behind early but are up 3-1 in the second period. If St. Louis wins, the Wild needs to win its last two games, and needs the Blues to lose in regulation to Columbus and Colorado. If the Blues lose, the Wild is one back of St. Louis and Nashville, with two games to play.
Post-game notes are below. The Wild will skate at 11 a.m. at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday.
RW Marian Gaborik notched a goal and two assists, G Niklas Backstrom
made 27 saves and RW Owen Nolan became the fourth player in team history to score 25 goals in a season, as the Minnesota Wild defeated the Dallas Stars 3-1 in front of 18,568 at Xcel Energy Center. C Eric Belanger added a goal for Minnesota, which has a point in each of its last nine home games (5-0-4) to tie a team record. The Wild moved within a point of eighth-place St. Louis (in Phoenix tonight) and ninth-place Nashville (a loser in Chicago tonight).
Skating in his 500th NHL game, RW Marian Gaborik notched a goal and two assists, extending his goal scoring streak to five games, tying his career-high (Jan. 30-Feb. 7, 2006) and moving within one of Brian Rolston’s team record of six (Jan. 21-Feb. 5, 2008). Gaborik has eight points (5-3=8) in a five-game point streak, and 13 points (8-5=13) in nine games since returning from a 38-game absence after having hip surgery Jan. 5. The Wild is 9-4-2 with Gaborik in the lineup this season. Since 2005-06, Minnesota is 116-65-24 with Gaborik in the lineup and 51-62-11 without him. Minnesota is 26-2-5 when Gaborik scores a goal, dating back to Nov. 24, 2007. In 500 career NHL games, Gaborik has 432 points (217-215=432).
G Niklas Backstrom
made 27 saves to improve his home unbeaten in regulation streak to 11 decisions (7-0-4), with a 1.90 GAA and a .925 SV% in that span. He is 4-0-1 with a 0.97 GAA and a .962 in his last five home games. Backstrom started his team-record 19th straight game.
The Wild is 5-0-4 in its last nine home games, tying the team record for a home point streak in a single season. The Wild went 5-0-4 from Dec. 13, 2000-Jan. 10, 2001. Minnesota hasn’t lost in regulation at Xcel Energy Center since a 5-3 defeat against Ottawa on Feb. 14.
RW Owen Nolan scored his 25th goal of the season, becoming just the fourth player in Wild team history to score 25 or more. Marian Gaborik has done it five times, and Brian Rolston scored 25 on three occasions, while Pavol Demitra scored 25 in 2006-07. Nolan has nine points (5-4=9) in the last nine games.
C Eric Belanger scored his first goal in 16 games, dating back to March 7 in Los Angeles. The power-play marker was his 13th of the season. Belanger has 14 power-play points (4-9=13), tying his career-high (7-7=14), set last season.
LW Andrew Brunette had an assist, giving him a point in six of the last seven games, with eight points (4-4=8) in that span. Brunette is the Wild's second-leading scorer with 48 points (21-27=48).
C James Sheppard recorded an assist. Sheppard has six points (1-5=6) in his last nine games, and is also a plus-six in that span. Sheppard has 22 points (5=17=22) after recording 19 (4-15=19) in his rookie season of 2007-08.
D Kurtis Foster
registered an assist. He has two helpers and is a plus-two over his last four games.
C Mikko Koivu
registered an assist, his first point since March 14 at Dallas. He played eight games since, plus missed three with a knee injury. Koivu’s 45 assists this season are tied with Brian Rolston for the third-most in team history.
The Wild is 5-1-1 in regular season games in April in the last three seasons.
A very mundane start to the third period. But that's not a bad thing with a 3-0 lead. Nashville still trails Chicago 3-1 early in the third. St. Louis plays in Phoenix, beginning in a few minutes.
Climie stones Eric Belanger all alone in front after a pass from Stephane Veilleux
in the corner.
Nik Backstrom won't get his second straight home shutout and third in eight games, as Fabian Brunnstrom makes it 3-1.9:45
The Wild, already 2-for-2 on the power play, goes on its third as Brendan Morrison gets called for interference.
A late chance here for the Stars on the man advantage, with Eric Belanger headed to the box.
We're back even at four men aside, as James Neal goes for hooking. Likely my last update, I'll be back after an extended post-game for Jerseys Off Their Backs.
We are underway in the second period. Adrian Peterson, Rocket Ismail and friends are in the booth above me. I made sure not to visit the website of my favorite team, the New York Giants.
Backstrom comes out too far, and Modano takes a puck off the boards, flings it across the crease but it's just wide of the far post.18:04
Great news from Nashville, where the Blackhawks scored two goals in the opening minute of the second period to take a 2-1 lead over the Predators.17:58
A hooking call to Marek Zidlicky sets up the Stars' first power play of the night.
Precision passing leads to a great chance for Jere Lehtenen at the left doorstep, but Backstrom rotated over in time.
breaks in 2-on-1 shorthanded with Cal Clutterbuck
. Mike Modano gave him a nudge from behind with the stick, and Climie stopped Veilleux's attempt.
A diving save by Backstrom keeps this game 1-0.
The Wild's 16th-ranked power play unit will get its first chance of the game,as Ivan Vishnevskiy goes off for slashing.
And it's 2-0, on the power play, as Eric Belanger scores his 13th goal, after a great play by Gaborik. Kurtis Foster's drive from the left point hit off a body and went to the right wing boards. Gaborik corralled the puck, shed two defenders in the right circle and snapped a shot on Climie. The rookie made the save, but Belanger slid the rebound into the net.
A slashing call to Matt Niskanen, and the Wildi s back on the power play. Belanger/Gaborik/Brunette, along with Zidlicky and Bergeron.
Owen Nolan becomes the fourth Wild player to score 25 goals in a season, popping a Marian Gaborik rebound by Climie. Second assist goes to Mikko Koivu
. It's the 28th career three-point game for Gaborik, and the Wild is 25-0-2 in the previous 27.End 2nd period
A much better second period out of the Wild, highlighted by power play goals from Belanger and Nolan.
Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson just led the crowd in Let's Play Hockey (actually it was "It's Time to Play Hockey." The Wild will start Gaborik/Koivu/Miettinen up front and Skoula/Bergeron on the blueline. Dallas head coach Dave Tippett counters with Brunnstrom/Modano/Morrison up front and Nicklas Grossman and Andrew Hutchinson at defense. Sara Renner just completed the national anthem, and we are ready to go. I tried to convince the powers that be to have her sing "Deep in the Heart of Texas" too, but we went without.
James Neal just leveled Marian Gaborik in front of the Wild bench.
Dan Fritsche got hit hard on the other end behind Climie. He's slow to get up but appears fine.
A hand pass gives us our first timeout of the fast-moving first period. Shots are 3-0 in favor of Dallas so far.
James Sheppard split the D but got hooked off the play and didn't get a good shot off.
Colton Gillies with a huge hit on Darryl Sydor deep in the Stars zone.
A great scoring chance by the Wild on its first shot. Andrew Brunette tried to hit Marian Gaborik on the right side of the crease. The puck went between Climie's pads, but got caught up in his equipment.
Backstrom stones Steve Ott from the mid slot.
Marian Gaborik nets his 11th of the season - and fifth in as many games - and makes it 1-0 Wild. James Sheppard finds Andrew Brunette up the right wing side. Brunette holds the puck as a cutting Gaborik slices through the low slot. Gaborik pokes the Brunette pass into the open net. Had he not been there, James Sheppard could have had the empty netter, as well.
Positioned perfectly as always, Backstrom stops Jere Lehtinen's right-circle blast.
End 1st period
The Wild is up 1-0 after 20 minutes, despite getting outshot 13-6. The second half of the stanza was much better, however.
It will be Niklas Backstrom
versus Matt Climie in net. The former Bemidji State Beavers goalie will make his second NHL start, after defeating St. Louis on Saturday. Wild scratches are Brent Burns (concussion), Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Nick Schultz (head), Derek Boogaard (upper body) and Craig Weller (concussion). Former Wild winger Mark Parrish will play for the Stars, who are without Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, Krys Barch, Landon Wilson, Chris Conner, Joel Lundqvist, Brad Richards and Marty Turco.
Tuesday, 12 p.m. CDT
The Wild will be without Nick Schultz tonight, who will miss just his third regular season game ever due to injury or illness. Schultz is out with a head injury -- as are Pierre-Marc Bouchard
and Brent Burns. Bouchard has, according to assistant GM Tom Lynn, “shown improvement in the last few days, but he’s not ready to increase workouts yet.” Derek Boogaard (upper body) skated with the team today during the pregame skate.
So John Scott will play for Schultz. The forward lineup remains to be seen.
Jacques Lemaire talked more about needing to see a sense of urgency out of his team, pointing out that it has been better over the past few games. Obviously, every game is a must-win now. Believe it or not, despite the doomsdayers out there, a win tonight, coupled with a Blues loss in Phoenix and a Predators loss to Chicago, leaves the Wild a point out with two games to play. Realistically, that’s two points out because the Wild would likely lose the first tiebreaker (wins). The Wild needs some help, but it’s certainly not over yet.
Wild Radio’s Bob Kurtz will go on XM Radio today at 2:25 p.m. CDT to join host Gary Green to preview tonight’s game. The tilt is on VERSUS. Daryl Reaugh, normally the Stars TV/radio color analyst, is on the VERSUS broadcast with Joe Beninati, so Wild TV’s Mike Greenlay will do the Stars radio broadcast, along with Ralph Strangis.Kurtis Foster
won the team’s NCAA pool. Foster also ran the pool, so he took some ribbing from the runner-ups (Cal Clutterbuck
and me), but we checked the bracket and it is all good. A Michigan State win last night would have given me the title. I hate the Tar Heels as much as the Red Sox, and that didn’t lessen last night.
It’s the signature prime rib/fried shrimp/mac and cheese press meal tonight. Which means a light lunch for those of us in the communications/broadcasting/web department. Talk to you from the press box with lineups.