Wild Clinch 2nd Place In Central Division With 5-3 Win Over Hurricanes

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Nino Niederreiter had two goals and an assist to lead Minnesota to a 5-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night that clinched second place in the Central Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the Wild.

Zach Parise scored and had two assists, and Eric Staal also added two assists to give the Wild’s first line eight points. Charlie Coyle scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period, and Devan Dubnyk shook off a shaky first period to stop 27 shots for his 39th win.

Jeff Skinner scored twice to set a career high with 35 goals and Lee Stempniak had a goal and an assist, but the Hurricanes were eliminated from postseason contention on a night when they took their third straight loss.

Cam Ward made 31 saves for the Hurricanes, whose 9-0-4 stretch preceding the losing streak raised hope for a late run at the second wild card in the top-heavy Eastern Conference.

Minnesota increased its franchise-record total to 259 goals, which leads the Western Conference, and set a club mark with an average attendance this season of 19,071.

The Wild dominated play up to the first intermission, but due to a couple of bad bounces and a continued substandard performance by Dubnyk they found themselves tied at the break after allowing only six shots on goal.

Just a few minutes after the ceremony honoring the 1,000-game mark he reached two weeks ago, Staal nearly scored with a one-timer before a low feed between his younger brother Jordan Staal and star defenseman Justin Faulk set up Parise’s 19th goal of the season.

The Staal family, with three generations represented, was on the ice while a video tribute to the oldest of four Manitoba boys to play in the NHL played overhead. Eric Staal, in his first season with Minnesota, was the second overall pick in the 2003 draft before amassing 775 points in 909 games for the Hurricanes. The Wild’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, given to a player in the league best representing perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport, Staal is the 311th player in NHL history to play in 1,000 or more games.

Schroeder knocked in a rebound and Niederreiter pivoted to turn a ricochet into a backhanded swipe for a score, but the Hurricanes answered each time. Stempniak beat Dubnyk’s glove for his 200th career goal as he cut to the net for a centering pass from Skinner, who tied the game at 2 on a top-shelf power-play shot and evened it at 3 with a rebound try through traffic off his own attempt.

Skinner has scored twice in four of the last 14 games.

The Hurricanes, who haven’t reached the postseason in eight years, their only appearance since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, welcomed Bryan Bickell back after a five-month absence following a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. He skated on the fourth line with Andrew Poturalski, who made his NHL debut.

The Wild skated in vintage Minnesota North Stars jerseys for pregame warmups, and Parise wore the helmet and gloves once donned by his late father, J.P. Parise, who died two years ago of complications from lung cancer.

NOTES: Including the franchise’s inception as the Hartford Whalers, Staal is second in Hurricanes history in goals and assists behind Ron Francis. He’s their all-time leader with 3,033 shots. … With no reason for the Wild to rush him back, LW Jason Zucker missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury. … Parise has 17 goals and 11 assists in 31 career games against Carolina. … The Wild finished 27-12-2 at home, the second-most home victories in franchise history (29-7-5 in 2006-07). They have 102 points, short of their record (104 points) set in 2006-07.

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Return home to play the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Wild: Hit the road for two more games to wrap up the regular season, at Colorado on Thursday and Arizona on Saturday.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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