ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)—Marian Gaborik kept up his remarkable scoring rate with a goal and two assists, and the Minnesota Wild avoided elimination from the playoff chase for at least two more days with a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.
Eric Belanger and Owen Nolan each scored on the power play in the second period off rebounds of shots by Gaborik, who has eight goals and five assists in nine games since returning from hip surgery. Injuries have limited him to 15 games all season, but he has 11 goals and seven assists and has scored in five straight games.
Niklas Backstrom, making his team-record 19th straight start in goal for the Wild, made 27 saves. The Stars peppered him in the first period and finally scored with 12:34 left in the third on Fabian Brunnstrom’s 2-on-1 goal, but the All-Star was as stout as ever with a variety of tough stops.
Nolan, the 37-year-old who still has a hard nose for the net, has done more than his share to pick up the slack during Gaborik’s absences. This was his 25th goal in 57 games, coming 5 1/2 minutes after Belanger’s. After spending some of the season near the top of the league in power play success, the Wild have been in a slump in those situations lately—falling to 15th in the NHL after scoring on only seven of their previous 58 man advantages.
Gaborik, who became the second player in Wild history to appear in 500 games with the team, set the tone late in the first period by poking in a perfect touch pass from Andrew Brunette while James Sheppard screened Dallas defenseman Andrew Hutchinson. Stars rookie Matt Climie, who won his debut on Saturday despite giving up four goals to St. Louis, finished with 29 saves.
The Wild, who added defenseman Nick Schultz (head) to their injury list after he was hurt in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Detroit, stayed within striking distance of St. Louis and Nashville for eighth place in the Western Conference and the final playoff spot. Minnesota hosts Nashville on Friday and finishes the regular season Saturday at Columbus, but is currently trailing in tiebreakers with both the Blues and the Predators and will need plenty of help to qualify for the third straight year.
The injury-burdened Stars, who were officially crossed off the list of contenders over the weekend, are 2-7-2 in their last nine games. This was their only loss to the Wild in four meetings this season.