Newcomer gives Wild top-line work

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 9, 2007 - 11:37 PM

Dominic Moore was on the lower offensive tier at his previous NHL stop. Two goals vs. Buffalo raised his stock.

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Eleven days ago when the Wild acquired Dominic Moore, coaches had to hunt down an NHL Guide & Record Book just to figure out who this guy was.

Nobody had heard of him. Assistant coach Mario Tremblay said, "Who?"

That's not the case anymore.

The well-rounded, two-way center looked like a 50-goal scorer Friday night, potting his first two goals during the Wild's 5-1 trouncing of the Eastern Conference power Buffalo Sabres.

"Pretty good trade," linemate Marian Gaborik said of the deal that brought Moore from Pittsburgh for a third-round pick. "He played very good.

"Important faceoff wins all night in our own zone. All over the ice he was good. Defensively he was good. He got two goals, two nice goals.

"It's got to be a good boost for him, confidencewise."

Facing the NHL's most prolific team with a league-high 254 goals, rookie goalie Josh Harding supplied a boost himself by making 35 saves for his fourth career victory. A bid for a second consecutive shutout was erased when Michael Ryan stripped Martin Skoula (who had a terrific game up to that point) with 3 minutes, 54 seconds left.

"I'm just happy to get the win," said Harding, 22. "I was pretty nervous going into this game. I said to myself at the beginning, 'If we win 7-6, I'll take that.' "

Said coach Jacques Lemaire, "He just played great the whole game."

The Wild, 12-3-2 in its past 17 on the road and inching up the West standings, returns home for an in-and-out matinee Sunday with Colorado, the ninth-place team, over which it now holds a 10-point playoff advantage. That cushion was six points two days ago.

"The intensity, the speed you saw tonight, it's unbelievable," the Wild's Brian Rolston said. "We knew we had to be ready."We're pretty proud of our effort as a team," Moore said.

Moore, 26, who hails from Thornhill, Ontario -- two hours from Buffalo -- and was playing in front of his father, Jack, notched his third career two-goal game in the first period (one off a wicked one-timer of a perfect Pierre-Marc Bouchard feed, one on a breakaway Skoula handed him). He was a plus-3 and won 12 of 21 faceoffs.

"Coming here, I was very excited, because it's sort of a clean slate," Moore said. "I'm just trying to work my way in gradually."

Moore, a fourth-liner with the Penguins and a third- and fourth-liner in Minnesota before Friday, was tossed onto the top line with Gaborik and Pavol Demitra because of Wes Walz's back injury. The trio took 18 of the Wild's 31 shots.

"[Gaborik and Demitra] are incredible playmakers," Moore said. "They just make things happen all the time."

Gaborik even drew rare praise from Lemaire, who hesitantly said, "I don't say this often, but Gaborik, this has got to be the best game that he's played -- for his team. Best game he's played defensively, offensively, the whole works."

Gaborik blushed at the praise, saying he wished he had scored on one of his nine shots, including a second-period penalty shot. He assisted on Demitra's 22nd goal, which he banked in off goalie Ryan Miller. Keith Carney then ended Miller's night prematurely before Todd White scored on a shorthanded breakaway against Ty Conklin.

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