ST. PAUL, Minn. – Whistle after whistle, the Montreal Canadiens kept heading to the penalty box – and killing Minnesota’s power plays.
By the time it was all over, the Canadiens had turned away the NHL’s third-best power play 10 times. Not bad for a team that entered the game around the middle of league’s penalty-kill pack.
“That’s probably the best PK game we’ve played all year so far,” Carey Price said after stopping 28 shots in his team’s 2-1 victory Thursday night. “It’s going to be pretty hard to top that.”
Francis Bouillon and Andrei Markov each scored for Montreal, with Alex Tanguay assisting on both goals. But the story of the night was the penalty kill.
“It was awesome,” Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said.
Heading into the game, Minnesota owned the league’s best penalty kill and third-best power play. But the Canadiens made the Wild look inept on the man advantage – Minnesota tied its franchise worst with the 10 blown opportunities and heard some rare boos from the usually adoring home crowd.
“You always have to give some credit to the other team,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “The few good chances we had, (Price) stopped them. It’s not an excuse when you do have two 5-on-3.”
Actually, it was more like three 5-on-3 chances, although one only lasted nine seconds.
Montreal took a 2-1 lead early in the second period on Markov’s one-timer from the right circle – a 5-on-3 power-play goal after a questionable slashing call on Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu.
Minnesota had more than its share of chances to repay the Canadiens. After the goal, Minnesota had six consecutive power-play opportunities – including three 5-on-3s – but could barely muster a decent shot against Montreal’s defence.
“I think that kind of grabbed the momentum for us,” Price said. “It kind of took the wind out of their sails.”
Despite the series of tripping, cross-checking, delay-of-game and bench minors, Montreal headed into the intermission with the lead while the Wild skated off the ice to the loud boos.
The Wild came up empty on two more chances in the third period.
Before losing the night before in Dallas, Minnesota had been the last NHL team without a loss in regulation to start the 2008-09 season.
“In Dallas we had a couple bad bounces to start the game, and this time we had trouble finishing,” James Sheppard said. “Our game was there, we just have to learn to capitalize.”
Montreal, meanwhile, improved to 7-1-1 and won its second straight.
Brent Burns, one of Minnesota’s top defenceman, gave the Wild a 1-0 lead just 1:31 into the game while playing on the wing. It didn’t take long for Montreal to answer. Less than three minutes later, Bouillon’s shot through traffic from the point beat Josh Harding, who made his first home start for the Wild.
Harding finished with 19 saves.
Notes: Wild RW Owen Nolan sat out with a lower-body injury. Lemaire said he expects Nolan to make the team’s upcoming road trip. … Brothers Saku and Mikko Koivu played against each other. It marked the first time in NHL history that two brothers played against each other as captains of their respective teams. … The Canadiens played their 2,900th NHL road game in franchise history. … Burns’ first-period goal was the earliest goal scored for Minnesota this season. … Minnesota has gone 0-for-9 or worse four times in team history, all at home. The only other time Minnesota went 0-for-10 on the power play was Dec. 8, 2007 against Anaheim.