|Gaborik gets NHL's first 5-goal game in 11 years, Wild beats Rangers 6-3|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 21 December 2007 01:40|
In a coincidence nearly as unbelievable as his record-setting performance for Minnesota on Thursday, Gaborik spent a few minutes in the morning watching online clips of Pavel Bure's five-goal game for Russia against Finland in the semifinals of the 1998 Olympic tournament in Nagano, Japan.
``My buddies sent me a YouTube video,'' Gaborik said.
Later that night, he made his own highlight film.
Whether it was on a power play, a breakaway, or just by batting an errant puck out of the air, Gaborik scored every which way to post the NHL's first five-goal game in 11 years and lead the Wild past the New York Rangers 6-3 for their fourth straight victory.
Teammate Mark Parrish, who was Bure's teammate for a four-goal game with Florida in 2000 and also had four goals himself one night as a rookie with the Panthers in 1998, just shook his head when asked about Gaborik and his feat.
``That was pretty amazing foreshadowing on his part, to watch those on YouTube and then go out there and have a night like he did tonight,'' Parrish said. ``It must've got him excited. He's going to have to watch that every game now.''
The Wild have been waiting for this breakout game from Gaborik, the smooth, speedy star from Slovakia whose career production has not reached its potential because of inconsistency and nagging groin injuries. He missed five games earlier in the fall because of that problem, which cost him a whopping 34 games last season. Still, he managed 30 goals and 27 assists in 2006-07, and when he skated Minnesota went 33-8-6.
This season, after getting at least one goal in his past four games and notching at least one point in 11 of his past 12, he leads the Wild with 18 goals and 33 points.
``I think that every day in practice: I'm glad I'm on his team, so I don't have to be up against him,'' goalie Josh Harding said. ``He has such a great shot, and he can do everything, and you can't say enough about the talent of that guy.''
Stuck in a crowd in the crease midway through the third period, Gaborik saw Nick Schultz's shot from just inside the blue line ricochet toward him. He had just enough room to slap the puck out of the air and into the back of the net for his fourth goal.
Clearly, it was his night.
He scored on a breakaway less than 2 minutes later.
``One time I got five goals when I was playing back home for a pro club back there, but this is just totally different,'' said Gaborik, who took 10 of his team's 22 shots.
``You score five goals in the NHL it's just a totally different experience. To reach it here with these guys in front of our fans is just unbelievable.''
His was the first five-goal outing since Sergei Federov did it for Detroit on Dec. 26, 1996, in an overtime game against Washington. Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux was the last to net five in regulation, on March 26, 1996, versus St. Louis.
With an assist on Pierre-Marc Bouchard's power-play goal in the second period, Gaborik tied his career high with six points. That was established on Oct. 26, 2002, at Phoenix. It was his best offensive game since he scored three goals and helped set up another on April 9, 2006, at Colorado.
This one got him carried off the ice by teammates Sean Hill and Keith Carney.
``It was pretty amazing,'' Parrish said. ``He was banking 'em in out of the air, scoring on breakaways, skating through everybody with it, making highlight-film goals.
``When a guy like that's feeling it, it gets pretty scary for the other team.''
The Rangers, who entered the game with a league-low 75 goals against, were upset about unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that preceded the man-advantage goals by Gaborik and Bouchard in the middle frame.
They had to concede, though, on a night like this.
``He was on tonight,'' leading scorer Brendan Shanahan said. ``Obviously the puck seemed to follow him. I wouldn't say any of them were soft goals. I've seen him a lot, and I think he's maybe one of the top three or four players in the game - as far as dangerous with the puck.''
Michal Rozsival, Martin Straka and Nigel Dawes scored for the Rangers, who are 2-5-1 in their past eight games. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist allowed at least four goals for the fourth time in six starts. He was pulled in the third period after giving up all six scores on just 18 shots.
``Somehow it didn't really matter what he was doing out there. He'd find a way to score,'' Lundqvist said. ``He's good.''
Aaron Voros set up Gaborik's first goal with a backhand pass between his skates to Pavol Demitra, who slid the puck in front of the crease to an unchecked Gaborik for an easy finish. He scored twice on second-period power plays, before the finishing touch in the final period.
He has nine of the 13 hat tricks in the franchise's seven seasons, and no Wild player had ever scored more than three times in one game.
``When it's going in, it's going in. Hopefully we can keep this going,'' Gaborik said.