ST. PAUL, Minn. — Someone has to score first and for the first time in eight games the Minnesota Wild beat their opponent to the punch.
Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle scored goals 57 seconds apart early in the third period to break open a defensive standoff and lift the Wild to a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia on Monday night.
“We’d been giving up the first goal so many times lately,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “I figure if we’re not going to score it, don’t let them.”
Josh Harding made 21 saves for this third shutout of the season.
“Better start,” Yeo said. “And again, that’s something we’ve talked about.”
In their previous seven games, the Wild had immediately fallen behind and were outscored 15-4 in the first two periods. They were 2-4-1 in those games.
Although it took a while for the Wild to get anything going offensively, they effectively kept the Flyers locked down. Playing without leading goal scorer Vincent Lecavalier (back spasms), Philadelphia had only six shots on goal and no real scoring chances in the first 33 minutes.
The Wild didn’t really, either, until Pominville collected Mikko Koivu’s pass in the crease and flipped it past Ray Emery 3:52 into the third period. Koivu was skating around the back of the net when he spun and passed behind his defender.
“I didn’t know if it was Poms or Zach (Parise), but once I saw someone was there, I tried to get it on tape and I did,” Koivu said. “Obviously he made a good shot, getting it up high. It was pretty tight for him. Good shot.”
On the ensuing shift, Coyle tapped a rebound off Jared Spurgeon’s slap shot into an empty corner at 4:11 to make it 2-0.
“It took a while, but we know if we stick to our system, we’re going to break them down, and that’s what happened,” Coyle said.
It was an impressive and unexpected flurry in a game that had played out as the statistics predicted. When the puck dropped, the Wild’s 17 even-strength goals allowed in 21 games led the NHL; and the Flyers had allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of their past 14 games.
Plus, the Wild had scored only six goals in their five previous games (1-3-1). But Minnesota controlled most of the action, even if its chances were minimal, to improve to 11-3-2 at home.
Harding improved to 11-1-0 at Xcel Energy Center this season and 32-10-2 all-time despite playing at a disadvantage for much of the third period. He faced down two power plays to nurse a 2-0 lead - once going corner to corner to dive in front of a point-blank shot by Jakub Voracek - then stopped two shots after Flyers coach Craig Berube pulled Emery with 3:22 left in regulation.
“It’s unbelievable this year, so many chances,” Voracek said. “I hit a couple posts, a couple good saves. Last year everything went under the bar. ... This year I think it’s going to go in and then something happens. That was a great save by Harding.”
The Flyers were trying to crack .500 for the first time this season after rebounding from a 1-7-0 start. They’re 11-6-2 since a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers Oct. 24, but fell to 1-10-1 this season when the opponent scores first.
CANADIENS 3, DEVILS 2
MONTREAL — Alex Galchenyuk scored midway through the third period to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Monday night.
Rene Bourque and Max Pacioretty also scored for the Canadiens (16-9-3). Carey Price made 27 saves.
Steve Bernier and Michael Ryder scored for the Devils (11-12-5), and Martin Brodeur stopped 13 shots.
Ryder tied it at 2 with a slap shot that got past Price at 4:42 in the third. But Galchenyuk responded five minutes later, picking up his seventh goal after Alexei Emelin’s shot landed on his stick.
It was New Jersey’s first regulation loss at the Bell Centre since 2008.
Sustained pressure by the Devils in the Canadiens’ zone led to Bernier’s second goal in as many games, putting New Jersey in front at 11:13 of the first period. The Quebec City native was left all alone in front of the net and beat Price on his blocker side by deflecting an Anton Volchenkov shot from the point.
The Canadiens tied it at 8:49 of the second when David Desharnais made a no-look, behind-the-back pass to Bourque, who scored his sixth goal. With Dainius Zubrus in the box for interference, Pacioretty made it 2-1 with a power-play score at 16:49 off a cross-ice pass from Andrei Markov.
The game was the first of a home-and-home series against the Devils. The teams face off again on Wednesday in New Jersey.
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