ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)—Though Marian Gaborik’s season will still be considered a disappointment, he’s trying hard to finish strong.
“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 playing time.
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 playstops,” Gaborik said. “It worked for me, so I’m glad.”
Anaheim RW Petr Sykora, who is fourth in the NHL in shots with 275 and second on the team with 23 goals, didn’t travel with the Ducks. After scoring against Columbus on Friday, Sykora spent the night in a hospital with a severe case of dehydration. He’s expected to return for a home game against Vancouver on Wednesday. … The Wild played with five defensemen after choosing not to call someone up from the minors to replace Filip Kuba, who is out for the rest of the season after being slashed by Chicago’s Scott Nichol on Wednesday. Minnesota didn’t want to disrupt the playoff push of its AHL affiliate, theHouston Aeros.