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Gaborik making a name for himself around the league

By Brian Murphy

Knight Ridder Newspapers

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Phoenix caught a glimpse of Marian magic six weeks ago. Last month, Los Angeles got acquainted. And the Nashville Predators had a brief introduction.

But Saturday, the Vancouver Canucks and a coast-to-coast audience in Canada formally were introduced to the game-breaking talents of Marian Gaborik, the Minnesota Wild's worst-kept secret.

In a game in which he was questionable to play, Gaborik pulled his third hat trick of the season out of the bag to carry the Wild to a 4-2 victory over the red-hot Canucks in front of 18,422 at General Motors Place and a nationally televised broadcast of "Hockey Night in Canada."

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"It was great to come back strong," Gaborik said. "I think it was our best game of the year. We battled hard; we were really disciplined and it was great effort on the road."

Gaborik scored two goals four minutes apart in the second period then added the game-clincher 3:48 into the third period to give him a league-leading 18 goals on the season and snap a five-game Minnesota winless streak.

It was Gaborik's fifth career hat trick, adding to a six-point performance against the Coyotes Oct. 26 and three-goal games against the Kings on Nov. 4 and the Predators on Nov. 25.

The victory gave the Wild four points out of a possible six on their three-game western Canada road trip, which ended with an intense, bloody match against the Canucks that had all the markings of a playoff game.

Ed Jovanovski threw another log on the smoldering fire of ill will between the teams when he hammered Jason Marshall into the boards with 4:49 to play. The hit, which left Marshall in a bloody heap on the ice for several minutes, earned Jovanovski a five-minute boarding major and game misconduct.

Marshall had a large gash on the left side of his head and suffered a concussion. He will have a CT scan today,

"He doesn't look good at all," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I guess he didn't expect the hit."

Last year, Marshall was sucker-punched by Matt Cooke at GM Place, spawning a brawl-filled rematch three months later.

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Gaborik darted behind Marek Malik at the blue line and drew a hooking penalty at 16:31. Minnesota controlled the puck in Vancouver's end for 45 seconds before Filip Kuba cracked the scoreless tie.

Andrew Brunette camped out behind Dan Cloutier and fed Kuba as he was cutting in on the right wing. He snapped a quick shot just inside the far post for his first goal in 41 games dating to Jan. 18. Sergei Zholtok drew the other assist.

It was a prelude to a fast-paced second period that managed to be entertaining despite the 10 minor penalties that were called.

Gaborik, who missed practice Friday because of a charley horse he suffered Thursday in Calgary, used his hands to dial up the intensity with a couple of stick-handling gems in the first five minutes.

With the teams skating four on four, Gaborik grabbed the puck in his own end and skated down the right wing, backing defenseman Murray Baron all the way to the goal line before snapping a shot through Cloutier's legs to give the Wild a 2-0 lead at 1:17.

Gaborik then stick-handled his way into the Canucks' zone and deftly used Brent Sopel to screen Cloutier and beat him high to regain Minnesota's two-goal lead.

Gaborik potted his final goal when he tipped Wes Walz's shot off Sopel past Cloutier to five Minnesota a two-goal cushion it would not relinquish.˙;

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