ST. PAUL, Minn. – In the right place at the right time, Jason Pominville came through once again for the Minnesota Wild.
With the Wild reeling after surrendering a two-goal lead in the third period, Pominville scored his second goal of the game to lead Minnesota to a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night.
Pominville scored the winner from just outside the left crease, beating goalie Carey Price and notching his team-leading ninth goal with 5:28 left.
“Pucks are finding me and I’m finding ways to put them in,” Pominville said. “But I think it’s just kind of finally getting rewarded for all the work we put in. I think as a line we went through a little bit of a tough stretch and weren’t able to generate much in the goal column and now we’re starting to chip in, in that way.”
Justin Fontaine and Nino Niederreiter also scored for Minnesota.
Brendan Gallagher, P.K. Subban and Brian Gionta scored for Montreal, which rallied from a 3-1 third-period deficit but couldn’t win its third straight game.
“We could feel it as soon as we made it 3-2, we had a push. We tied it up and continued to push, but give them credit,” Gallagher said. “They got the fourth goal. We continued to push, but it just wasn’t enough.”
Pominville gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead in the second after he corralled a long lead pass from Mikael Granlund and beat Price through the five-hole on a breakaway.
“He’s a smart player. Sometimes I feel like he knows what’s going to happen next,” Granlund said of Pominville. “He can make plays and good decisions, so I like to play with him.”
Although it wasn’t as pretty as his pass that sailed across the ice and set up Pominville in the second, Granlund added another assist on Niederreiter’s goal from in close that made it 3-1 early in the third.
But just like they did after Fontaine’s goal in the first, the Canadiens answered quickly.
After a Dany Heatley penalty, Subban fired a slap shot past Wild goalie Josh Harding at 7:12 of the third period to make it 3-2 and Gionta tied it 3 minutes later.
Wild coach Mike Yeo called a timeout after Gionta’s goal and the Wild settled down.
Pominville’s winner was his fifth goal in his last three games.
The goal left Price so frustrated that he was still slamming his stick on the ice two minutes later.
“We didn’t play a full game,” Gionta said. “We had spurts where we did it and you saw that we were successful at that time, but this league is too tough. You’ve got to do it for 60 minutes to get wins.”
Harding returned from a lower-body injury he sustained on Oct. 24 and made 28 saves in the win.
Centre Charlie Coyle returned after missing 11 games with a knee injury and Yeo shuffled his lines in an effort to generate more 5-on-5 scoring opportunities.
Coyle centred the top line with leading scorer Zach Parise, bumping Mikko Koivu off Parise’s line for the first time since Parise signed with the Wild last off-season.
Yeo switched things up again to start the third period on Friday, putting Koivu back on the top line with Parise and plugging in Coyle at right wing.
None of the main players involved in the shuffling scored Friday, but the Wild did create several scoring chances and scored at least four goals for the third time this season.
NOTES: Canadiens D George Parros returned from a concussion he sustained in the season opener when he crashed to the ice during a fight with Toronto’s Colton Orr. Parros also shaved his trademark moustache so he can grow a new one and raise awareness for men’s cancer during November. … Wild D Keith Ballard returned after missing seven games with a concussion. … The Montreal cheering section was larger than usual at the Xcel Energy Center. Twenty fathers accompanied their sons on this road trip to Minnesota and Colorado. Team personnel also were invited to bring along one guest apiece.