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Wild 4, Penguins 0

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SAINT PAUL, Minn. - When the Minnesota Wild acquired center Cody McCormick at the trade deadline last month, they weren't looking for offense. But Saturday night, that's what they got from him.

McCormick, best-known for his tough guy ways, had a goal and an assist for the Wild - his first points since coming over in a trade with Buffalo - as Minnesota inched closer to securing a return trip to the playoffs in a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Wild goalie Illya Bryzgalov, another trade deadline pickup, had 20 saves, improving to 5-0-3 with a pair of shutouts for Minnesota (40-26-12), which also got goals from left wing Erik Haula, center Mikko Koivu and left wing Stephane Veilleux.

The Penguins (49-24-5), who clinched the Metropolitan Division title on Thursday in Winnipeg, got 16 saves from goalie Jeff Zatkoff, but fell behind early and showed little spark throughout. It was the sixth time this season that they have been blanked.

Less than two minutes into the game Haula got the home crowd of 19,409 - the largest in Wild history - into the game, taking a pass from left wing Matt Moulson on a give-and-go play and chipping the puck past Zatkoff. It was the second goal in as many games for Haula.

Koivu doubled the Minnesota lead near the midway point of the first period, slipping a shot through a crowd in front of Zatkoff after a pass from left wing Zach Parise.

A few minutes later, Veillleux got just his third goal of the season, putting a puck on net after a set-up pass from McCormick. The 3-0 came via just five shots on goal, but with the Penguins playing on Sunday night and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury expected to start, Zatkoff stayed in the game.

McCormick, who came to the Wild on March 5 as part of the trade in which they acquired Moulson, came into the game with five points - all of them with the Sabres - and 50 penalty minutes. But he finally got his first goal with Minnesota early in the second period, sending a wrist shot past Zatkoff after a pass from Parise.

With the win, the Wild moved four points ahead of Dallas and six points ahead of Phoenix in the race for the playoffs with four games to play. Two of those three teams will get in.

NOTES: Wild LW Zach Parise's assist on C Mikko Koivu's first period goal was the 500th point of Parise's career. That includes 36 points in 45 career games versus Pittsburgh. ... Penguins D Paul Martin, who starred at the University of Minnesota and grew up in nearby Elk River, Minn., had more than 150 friends and family at the game on Saturday. ... Wild RW Nino Niederreiter returned to the lineup after a one-game absence due to an upper body injury. As a result of Niederreiter's return, LW Dany Heatley was a healthy scratch for the third time in the past four games. ... Penguins G Jeff Zatkoff has played in 19 games this season, but was the starter both times Pittsburgh faced the Wild. He had 24 saves in a 5-2 Pens win over Minnesota on Dec. 19 in Pittsburgh. ... The Wild play their final road game of the regular season on Monday, traveling to Winnipeg to face the Jets. The Penguins also have their final regular season road game when they face the Avalanche in Colorado on Sunday night.
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