Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 3/28/12
ST. PAUL, Minn. Much to the chagrin of the Minnesota Wild, Marian Gaborik still knows how to make himself feel at home at the Xcel Energy Center. In his second game back in the building he excelled in for so many years as a member of the Wild, Gaborik helped the New York Rangers stay atop the Eastern Conference with a 3-2 win. Gaborik, Minnesota's first-ever draft pick as a new team in 2000, scored his first career goal against the Wild in his second-ever game against his old team. The Slovakian sniper, who has 321 career goals and 640 points, has now scored against every NHL team. "It's special to come here," Gaborik said. "I had a great time here. It's always special to come in here and more special to get a win for the Rangers." Gaborik left Minnesota in 2009 as an unrestricted free agent, going for the big dollars and the bright lights of New York. He was the last original member of the Wild when he left and is the franchise's all-time leader in goals (219), assists (218), points (437), power-play goals (59), game-winning goals (43), shots on goal (1,694) and had five 30-goal seasons in eight seasons in a Minnesota sweater. After scoring his 38th goal of the season on Tuesday, Gaborik wore a big smile and gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead. It was the 110th goal he had scored at the Xcel Energy Center in 256 career games in the building. "It felt good," Gaborik said. "Big win. It always feels good to win in this building." But he didn't get the same reaction from the Minnesota fans as he was used to. "I heard boos," he said. "It doesn't surprise me. But glad I got that goal and helped the team." Besides the Wild, Gaborik's lowest goal total against another team is four. He has scored four goals against Buffalo in 17 games and Montreal in 16 games. Curiously enough, he has eight goals and two assists in nine games against the Rangers. Of course, his career-highs of five goals and six points in a game came against New York at the Xcel Energy Center in 2007. Other Minnesota connections: The Rangers also feature a pair of Minnesota natives this season. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who is from St. Paul and played high school hockey at Cretin-Derham Hall, played his first game at the Xcel Center in three years. The 2007 Mr. Hockey winner as the top high school player in Minnesota, McDonagh played college hockey for the University of Wisconsin. He said he had about 80 friends, family and former coaches in the building and said the last time he had played at the Xcel Energy Center was three years ago as a member of the Badgers. McDonagh finished with two assists in 21:46 of ice time Tuesday, tallying an assist on Ruslan Fedotenko's game-winning goal in the third period. "It was cool," McDonagh said of playing back in Minnesota. "I was thinking back to the high school moments and college games and it's really fun. I felt pretty comfortable out there, comfortable with the surroundings. It was real fun to be a part of." A first-round draft pick by the Montreal Canadiens in 2007, McDonagh was acquired by New York in a 2009 trade. He has six goals and 23 assists this season and is a plus-26 in 76 games. "He's a guy that wants to extend himself offensively, improve there," Rangers coach John Tortorella. "He's made tremendous improvements in that. Along with probably, him and Danny (Girardi) have been our steadiest defense all year long. With the minutes he racks and who he is playing against, at such a young age, it's really good." Center Derek Stepan is from Hastings, Minn. Stepan had 21:22 of ice time Tuesday and has 16 goals and 31 assists in 76 games. Defenseman Michael Sauer, who is on the Rangers' injured reserve with a concussion, is from St. Cloud, Minn. He missed his 52nd game. He has a goal and two assists and is a plus-9 in 19 games. Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
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