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Wild clinch playoff berth, keep rolling against Avalanche

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Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Wild found the right time to go on a roll.

Minnesota won its third straight game Sunday, defeating Colorado 2-1 in overtime on a night where the Wild officially clinched a playoff berth and Marian Gaborik scored his franchise-record 40th goal of the season.

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"It feels good, you know, to get 40 goals and especially in a big win for us," Gaborik said. "So, we have a couple of games to go, we just need to focus right now. Hopefully we can get the division title."

Gaborik scored twice, with the game-winning goal coming with 1:50 remaining in overtime. He ended a two-on-one break at the edge of the crease when he took a return pass from Pavol Demitra and redirected the puck behind Colorado goalie Jose Theodore.

Brian Rolston scored for Minnesota and goalie Niklas Backstrom had 24 saves. Jeff Finger and Ruslan Salei scored for Colorado. Theodore finished with 17 saves.

Minnesota clinched a playoff berth for the second straight season when when Detroit beat Nashville 2-1 in overtime Sunday afternoon.

Edmonton, Vancouver and Nashville are fighting for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference, but Minnesota is no longer on the playoff edge and want to lock up home-ice advantage for the first round with the Northwest Division crown.

To do that, the Wild (95 points) will likely need beat Calgary (90 points) in their next game on Thursday in St. Paul or have the Flames, which played Vancouver late Sunday, stumble in one of their four remaining games.

The Wild wrap up the regular season Sunday at Colorado (90 points).

Both Gaborik and head coach Jacques Lemaire were pleased with the win -- the Wild's season-best fifth straight at home -- and the way the team is playing as the regular season draws to a close.

Gaborik, who also set the team season-points record (80) Sunday, feels the Wild are playing their best hockey of the season.

"I think so," he said. "There's just a lot of confidence in the locker room and we're playing good. We're playing as a team and we are supporting each other. We're helping each other and Nik(las) is playing great in net."

Lemaire noted the defensive play, aggressive play after loose pucks and team support in corner battles.

"I feel good the way we're playing; we're playing for the team and I like that," Lemaire said. "When we do things like that we're in control and we're playing our best game - then it will take a better team than us to beat us."

Like the first two games of the four-game homestand against Edmonton and Vancouver, the Wild were strong early and scored two goals in the first period.

Rolston scored his 30th of the season on a rebound at 4:56 and Gaborik scored his 39th with a power-play goal at 13:21.

Gaborik kicked Brent Burns' errant pass out of his skates, onto to his stick and put a shot over Theodore's shoulder.

"The last three or four games we've had a great start and that's what has been missing in the past," Gaborik said. "It always seemed like we were trailing."

The Avalanche responded in the second period, scored two goals and outshot the Wild 9-3.

Finger scored on a quick cross-ice pass down low from Joe Sakic at 1:21. Backstrom could not cover the far side of the net in time, leaving Finger an open shot to cut the Wild lead to 2-1.

Salei tied the game at 11:59 when his slap shot from the blue line deflected off Brian Rolston's skate and over Backstrom's shoulder.

"They dominated the second period, but we were able to come out strong in the third," Gaborik said. "The third period was very good. We had our chances there and we deserved to win."

One of those chances came with eight minutes left in the third period when Nick Schultz had a shot ring off the pipe.

In overtime, Koivu barely missed a backhand play one minute into the period and Sakic hit the post on the next rush.

Two minutes later, Gaborik ended it.

As Theodore moved to near post, Demitra had just enough strength to get the puck to Gaborik's backhand on the far side of the crease.

"The puck was just rolling and he (Demitra) was able to handle the puck," Gaborik said. "No one expected that and it was a nice play."

Notes

- Rolston has scored 30 goals in each of the last three seasons. The Wild are 44-7-6 over the last two season when he scores.

- The win was Lemaire's 499th career victory. His next win will make him only the 12th coach in NHL history to reach 500.

- The Wild killed all three Colorado power plays ad are 22-for-22 on the penalty kill in the last five games.

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