ST. PAUL, Minn. – P.K. Subban doesn’t remember the last time he recorded a hat trick. It never happened during his junior career and he wasn’t even sure if he ever scored three goals in a game as a youngster.
Not only did he do it Sunday night in the Canadiens’ 8-1 rout of the Minnesota Wild, he made history. When Subban beat goalie Niklas Backstrom low on the glove side less than 90 seconds into the third period, he became the first Montreal rookie defenceman to have a hat trick.
“I never thought in a million years that I would get a hat trick in an NHL game,” said Subban, a hard-nosed player who leads the Canadiens in penalty minutes. “It’s quite the thrill, it’s something you dream about. To be able to do it this early in my career, it’s a great feeling.
“Everything was going our way. The bounces went my way. The team did a great job creating the chances for me.”
On a night in which six Canadiens scored, Subban’s performance was the most impressive. He gave Montreal a 3-0 lead 51 seconds into the second period when he drove from the left side and scored on Jose Theodore. Subban made it 6-0 with 3:37 left in the period by sending in a shot from the point during a power play.
Subban completed the hat trick 1:27 into the third period when his shot from the right circle beat Backstrom, who replaced Theodore in the second.
The hat trick was the first for a Montreal defenceman since Sheldon Souray did it against Nashville in December 2003. At least 50 hats were thrown onto the ice by the hundreds of Montreal fans in attendance. Subban is also the first defenceman to record a hat trick against the Wild.
Subban’s hat trick was the first by a Montreal rookie since Oleg Petrov scored three goals in December 1993.
“It’s obviously a great achievement,” Subban said. “It was great to get that, but it didn’t feel like I was trying to score. Things just happened for me.”
He wasn’t alone. Things just happened for many of the Canadiens.
Ryan White scored his first NHL goal just 31 seconds in to set the tone for the rout. Montreal led 2-0 after one period and 6-0 after 40 minutes.
Andrei Kostitsyn, James Wisniewski, Travis Moen and Tom Pyatt also scored for the Canadiens, who scored eight goals for the first time since January 2008. Montreal’s Benoit Pouliot assisted on each of the first three goals against his former team.
Mikko Koivu scored a penalty-shot goal for the Wild with 7:46 remaining to end Alex Auld’s shutout bid.
“All four lines gave us some good push,” Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. “I thought the line of Pouliot and White at times with Kostitsyn was really strong. It was the difference maker.”
While the Montreal locker-room was filled with laughter and jokes, there was quiet resignation on the Minnesota side after the most lopsided loss in Wild history.
The Wild, 11th in the tightly bunched Western Conference post-season race, had never given up more than seven goals at home and never lost a game by more than six. Minnesota hasn’t won since March 8 and has been outscored 28-9 during its current six-game losing streak.
“Our execution was probably the worst I’ve seen in just about two years now here,” Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. “Decisions with the puck, without the puck, our defencemen were chasing back a lot. I felt bad for Theo because we put him in some really tough predicaments on the ice.
“I need to be better as a coach, and the players need to be better as players.”
Auld was solid in earning his sixth win of the season. The quick start and Auld’s performance allowed Montreal to bounce back from Friday night’s 6-3 loss at the New York Rangers. The Canadiens, sixth in the Eastern Conference, have won eight of 11.
The Wild avoided the shutout after Montreal’s Alexandre Picard was called for covering the puck in the crease with his hand. That set up Koivu’s penalty-shot goal.
Notes: This was Montreal’s 40th victory of the season, surpassing last season’s total of 39 with nine games left. … Kostitsyn has scored in three of four games for Montreal. … Canadiens D Hal Gill returned to the lineup after missing the past two games because of the flu. … This was the Canadiens’ first visit to Minnesota since October 2008 and the first meeting between the teams since December 2009.