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Foligno's Gordie Howe hat trick energizes Wild

Minnesota Wild left wing Marcus Foligno (17) and New Jersey Devils right wing Kurtis Gabriel (39) fight during the second period Saturday, Feb. 9, at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Ed Mulholland / USA TODAY Sports

NEWARK, N.J. -- There is nothing more hockey than a Gordie Howe hat trick.

Players who score, assist and fight in the same game are forever linked to the Red Wings hall of famer who personified skill and toughness during a remarkable 32-year pro career.

Wild winger Marcus Foligno earned the honor again during their 4-2 victory Saturday, Feb. 9, over the New Jersey Devils.

He scored Minnesota’s first goal 12:19 into the first period, beautifully roofing a backhand-wraparound past Corey Schneider.

The Wild had just taken a 2-1 lead early in the second when Kurtis Gabriel on the ensuing faceoff challenged Foligno to a fight. He was happy to oblige. The two former Minnesota teammates tussled to a stilted draw.

It was a risky move for Foligno to accept the challenge, considering the Wild had the momentum and the Devils were desperate for some.

“We really haven’t had a fight to get the guys going, so I just thought it was a time where you have a taker,” Foligno said. “He was pretty much drooling to ask me to go fight him, so I just had to answer it and it worked out for us.”

Late in the second period, it happened. Foligno drew the second assist on Joel Eriksson Ek’s goal, linking himself to Mr. Hockey once more. As a Buffalo Sabre in 2013 he had a Gordie Howe hat trick against Boston.

“Everyone was yelling at me to get the Gordie,” said Foligno. “Zach (Parise) was pretty vocal when we came through the line. Everyone started calling me Gordie. I guess that’s a really good nickname to have in this league.”

Parise unwelcomed

The booing might not be as fierce as Ryan Suter faces in Nashville, but Devils fans let Parise know every time he touched the puck how bitter they are that he ditched New Jersey for Minnesota as a free agent in 2013.

“Maybe they’re starting to warm up to me,” Parise quipped. “I was expecting it. I know it’s coming. That’s OK. They’re loyal.”

He had the last laugh, notching a second-period goal and the victory in his triumphant return to Prudential Center.

Parise scored 194 goals among 410 points in seven seasons with the Devils, helping lead the team to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in six games.

“There’s a lot of great memories here,” he said. “We loved living here. I loved playing here so I always enjoy coming back.”

Briefly

Saturday’s game was the 900th for Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who ranks first among active coaches in points percentage and ninth overall in games.

“Somebody told me today,” Boudreau said. “I had no idea coming into the game. I hope at the end of the year, this is the one that got us in (the postseason).”

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