The former Wild star scored for the first time against his former team and heard the boos.
Only a handful of Wild players remain from the days Marian Gaborik filled the back of the net ... when he wasn't on the trainer's table.
The former Wild sniper had dinner with three of them Monday night -- Mikko Koivu, Niklas Backstrom and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The check was split, although Gaborik probably could have picked up the tab.
After all, it's been nothing but downhill in Minnesota since he left as a free agent for the New York Rangers in 2009: Three missed postseasons, anemic scoring, no game breakers.
Gaborik could care less. He doesn't "look at the past," only the future, and his Rangers took another step toward a potential Eastern Conference crown and President's Trophy with a 3-2 victory over the Wild Tuesday.
In the second period, Gaborik scored his first career goal against the Wild and wore a giant smile as he celebrated.
"Of course. It felt good," said Gaborik, who also heard a chorus of boos when the goal was announced. "It always feels good to win in this building. I'm glad I played here for the Rangers twice and we've got two wins. It was a big one for us."
The biggest play of the game was set up by defenseman Ryan McDonagh, the 2007 Minnesota Mr. Hockey. With 6 minutes, 23 seconds left, he created Ruslan Fedotenko's winner when his centering feed deflected off Marco Scandella's stick right onto Fedotenko's.
"I really don't know that he's there, to be honest," McDonagh said. "But I know with our system, when I'm going down the boards, there's going to be guys at the net. I got a fortunate bounce off [Scandella's] stick. In the end, they don't ask how."
McDonagh, 22, played in front of 80 friends and family, including youth coaches, including his high school coach, Jim O'Neill. Asked how much money he spent on tickets, McDonagh said, "I don't know, but it was worth it. They all put a lot of hard work in for me to get here."
McDonagh won a state title inside the X in 2006 and last played here in 2010 when Wisconsin advanced to the Frozen Four.
"It was cool. I was thinking back to the high school moments and the state tournament and college games," McDonagh said. "It's real fun. I felt pretty comfortable with the surroundings out there."
Other than the first period, the Wild played a strong game, bouncing back from a 1-0 deficit in the second period with power-play goals from Kyle Brodziak (his 20th) and Mikko Koivu (his first goal since Feb. 16).
This came after Gaborik scored his 38th (ranking third in the NHL) after catching Brad Richards' pass in front of the net and wristing it home.
Gaborik has come a long way since his chronic abdominal issues in Minnesota. His last year here, he missed 65 games.
"I don't look back," Gaborik, the Wild's all-time leading scorer, said. "I just try to stay on top of things and make sure I manage what I have to. So far, so good."
The Wild had plenty of chances to break the 2-2 tie in the third, but two Nate Prosser turnovers on one shift led to McDonagh beating Cal Clutterbuck to a loose puck and setting up Fedotenko, who slipped behind an unaware Prosser and out-of-position Chad Rau.
"We do a lot of good things and we just give them a freebie," a frustrated coach Mike Yeo said. "In a 2-2 game, you have to be ready. We don't do the right thing, and we're not alert and we give them a tap-in. Like, can't happen."
|East Tenn St||73||FINAL|
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