ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- The Minnesota Wild finished the season strong. Too bad, for them, they didn't turn things around sooner.
"It would be nice to be going into the playoffs like this,
considering how well we've played lately," said coach Jacques
Lemaire, who guided Minnesota to the Western Conference finals last
year. "But I think we started too late to play well as a group."
Stephane Veilleux had a power-play goal, and Marc Chouinard
added an empty-netter for the Wild, who finished 10th in the West --
eight points out of the final playoff spot. Minnesota went 9-3-1-1
in its final 14 games and moved above .500 for the first time all
season to finish at 30-29-20-3.
"The young guys have come in here and played well," Gaborik
said. "It's nice to finish with a win. Especially in front of the
"It was a good opportunity for some guys without much playing
time to get back into the lineup," said coach Mike Kitchen, who
went 9-7-4 since taking over for the fired Joel Quenneville on Feb.
24. "We're going to need everyone, so it's a matter of staying
healthy and rolling into playoff mode."
St. Louis has qualified for the playoffs each season since 1980,
a 25-year streak that's the longest active run in the four major
"I think we're ready to go," said right wing Mark Rycroft, who
returned after an 11-game absence with a leg injury. "We looked at
this game as a chance for some of us to shake the rust off. But the
team has played very well in the last 15 games or so."
The Blues will face Pacific Division champion San Jose in the
first round next week.
"Confidence is a big thing," Kitchen said. "When I took over,
we weren't a very confident hockey team, but our power play's
getting better and we're getting timely goals."
Roloson, who made 24 saves, had the second-best goals-against
average in the NHL behind Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff. Roloson, an
All-Star who went 19-18-11, had a GAA of 1.92 entering Sunday.
"It was awesome the way we came together down the stretch,"
Roloson said. "It was great for some guys to open some eyes."
Late in the second period, after Rycroft was called for hooking,
the Wild took rare advantage of the extra skater and took a 1-0
Minnesota's power-play conversion rate, less than 14 percent,
was 28th in the NHL this season.
The Wild, outshot 10-5 in the first period, took a 2-0 lead
midway through the third when Gaborik's rising wrist shot from the
faceoff dot caught a tiny gap between the post and the left leg pad
Divis stopped 22 of 24 shots. Divis made a sharp leg kick in the
third period to deny Gaborik on a penalty shot after Jeff Finley
pulled him down in the St. Louis zone.
Divis was playing for the first time since March 17 to give
Chris Osgood a break in goal.
"He played outstanding," Kitchen said, contradicting the
self-analysis Divis gave of his performance. "That's a tough game
to play in for a goalie. We left a lot of loose pucks in front, but
he was terrific."
Gaborik, with 18 goals, finished second on the team behind
Alexandre Daigle in scoring. Daigle had 20 goals. ... St. Louis
went 0-2-2 against Minnesota this season.