CALGARY – Minnesota gave up a lot to get Jason Pominville from the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL trade deadline, but it’s paid off.
Pominville has four goals in six games since joining the Wild including his 13th and 14th goals of the season Monday as Minnesota snapped a three-game winless skid with an important 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames.
“It’s nice coming into a group that’s committed to winning and that’s showed some consistency throughout the season. It’s definitely nice to be a part of that,” said Pominville, whose goal at 11:13 of the second gave the Wild a 2-0 lead headed to the third period.
Pominville spent seven seasons with the Sabres but was on the verge of missing the playoffs for a second straight year when the Wild packaged up two prospects and two draft picks to acquire the 30-year-old right winger.
“The last couple years, we were kind of on the outside trying to get in and now it’s the other way around where we’re in the playoff picture, trying to hang on and climb in the standings,” Pominville said.
The victory vaults Minnesota past St. Louis into sixth place in the Western Conference. The Wild also move to within three points of the Northwest Division-leading Vancouver Canucks.
Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard also scored for Minnesota (23-16-3). The Wild kicked off a three-game road trip that continues Tuesday night in Edmonton.
Jiri Hudler, Sven Baertschi and Ben Hanowski playing in his first NHL game scored for Calgary (16-22-4). The Flames remain in 28th place overall, one point up on Colorado and there points up on Florida.
With some veterans traded away and others like Alex Tanguay and Matt Stajan injured, the Flames dressed a lineup comprised mostly of young players.
“They’re all learning, they’re all playing hard. The number one thing is obviously is the work ethic and getting them to know the speed of the game,” said veteran Calgary defenceman Mark Giordano. “For the most part, they’ve all been great and it’s up to us older guys, we can’t make some of the mistakes we’re making.”
The latest rookie to be inserted was Hanowski, 22, one of two U.S. college players the Flames acquired, along with a 2013 first round draft pick, in the March 27 trade that sent Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Hanowski was signed by the Flames on Friday after St. Cloud State got knocked out of the NCAA Frozen Four semifinal on Thursday. He arrived in Calgary on Sunday, practised with the team for the first time Monday morning, and then was in the starting lineup against his home state’s NHL team.
His goal came at 11:19 of the third period, drawing the Flames to within one at 4-2. He banged in the puck from the top of the crease after it was centered by Mikael Backlund.
“It was a special moment and I’ll always remember it,” said Hanowski, who most of the night played on a line with Mike Cammalleri and Roman Horak. “To score in the NHL is something you do in your backyard and in the summer playing road hockey with your buddies so to finally do it, is pretty special for a lot more people up here that helped me get to this point.”
Standing in front of his locker surrounded by throngs of media, Hanowski admitted it had been a nerve-wracking day.
“Tough to get any sleep in the day, nerves going a little bit,” he said. “It was exciting but at the same time, it’s kind of nice just to get through the first game and move onto the next one and hopefully just keep getting better every day.”
The Flames drew to within one when Baertschi scored his second goal in as many games with 39 seconds left and the goalie pulled. But that’s as close as Calgary would get.
“Obviously it’s a big win,” said Koivu. “It’s a big road trip for us and you always want to start on a good note and we did that tonight. It was a good battle but we were just a little bit better.”
After giving up a goal to Hudler 3:42 into the third period, Bouchard restored the Wild’s two-goal cushion at 3-1, scoring 11 seconds later.
“At this point in the season, those two points are just so important,” said Minnesota centre Matt Cullen, who returned from missing six games with an injury. “You can analyze it, you can look at it, it wasn’t necessarily a pretty game but the bottom line is we got out of here with two points.”
Joey MacDonald made his third start in a row with Miikka Kiprusoff still nursing a minor injury sustained in his last start. He had 23 saves to fall to 7-7-1.
Niklas Backstrom had 20 stops to improve to 21-12-3.
Notes: Glencross returned to the lineup after missing one game with the flu…Calgary drops to 1-14-0 when trailing after one period…It was Pominville’s first goals against the Flames in seven career games. Calgary had been the only NHL team he hadn’t scored against.. Calgary has two more games left on a three-game homestand before hitting the road where they’ll play their final four games.