BUFFALO, N.Y. – There was a 16-minute delay to start the second period Monday night as arena workers at First Niagara Center scurried about trying to figure out a way to turn the lights on again.
It was perfect symbolism for the Buffalo Sabres’ power outage to start this season.
The Sabres were winless, had scored six goals … and it scared the heck out of Mike Yeo. It’s why the Wild coach did everything he could Monday to guard against his team walking into a trap.
Well, former Sabres captain Jason Pominville made sure that didn’t happen. In his first game back in the barn where he played for eight seasons, Pominville fittingly scored a gorgeous winning goal to lead the Wild to a 2-1 victory in the first of four consecutive games away from St. Paul.
“It tops off a pretty emotional day in a good way,” Pominville said. “It was a special day, a day I’ll remember for a while.”
Pominville’s power-play goal with 9.7 seconds left in the second period helped the Wild to its third consecutive victory and dropped the Sabres to 0-6-1. Kyle Brodziak also scored for the Wild, and Josh Harding, who has given up four goals in four games in relief of the injured Niklas Backstrom, won for the third consecutive game with 22 saves.
But the day belonged to Pominville, who felt weird walking into such a familiar arena as a visitor. He held a classy news conference Monday morning, talked about his excitement about signing long-term with a franchise in win-now mode and received several warm ovations during the game, especially when he was announced as a starter and after being named first star.
“He’s a guy that brings so much to our team, so much to the locker room,” Yeo said. “He’s a guy you just want to go out and help him.”
It was an aggravating game at times for the Wild. The Sabres, because of their offensive deficiencies, sat back much of the game and made the neutral zone tough to penetrate. The Wild had to chip in a lot of pucks and even when it generated long spells in the offensive zone, it couldn’t get many pucks to backup goalie Jhonas Enroth.
But after Brian Flynn tied the score in the second period, the Wild earned its first power play of the game.
Pominville scored with a second left in the advantage and waning seconds of the middle frame. He finished off a pretty, flawless display of passing by the Wild, which went end to end with seven passes. Pominville executed a give-and-go with Mikko Koivu and roofed his second goal of the season.
“The power play’s been good all year, and it turned out to be the winner and it turned out to be Pommer,” Zach Parise said. “It feels so good to come here and get a win for him.”
It was Pominville’s 22nd career winning goal and second with the Wild.
“Good passing play, good entry. We came all the way up with speed,” he said.
The Wild jumped out to a 1-0 lead 5:23 into the game when Brodziak was the beneficiary of some tremendous skating and stickhandling by the one-man breakout, Jonas Brodin.
The 20-year-old mobile defenseman flew around his net to trigger the breakout. When Cody Hodgson forechecked, Brodin casually passed to Brodziak in his zone, skated ahead of the forward and got the puck right back during a neutral-zone give-and-go.
And go Brodin did. He fed Matt Cooke to his left inside the blue line and drove to the net to get Enroth’s attention almost like a decoy. Cooke fed Brodziak in the high slot on a delayed penalty and fired by the distracted goalie.