Things could have gone either way for Jason Pominville. Through the first five games of the season, the Wild winger produced a single goal, mirroring the struggles of his scoring-starved team.
Pominville didn’t get discouraged. He kept plugging away, believing that if he continued to put himself in the right position, his rewards would come.
Friday night, Pominville proved the value of persistence with two goals that lifted the Wild to a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Xcel Energy Center.
His first goal, on a breakaway set up by a perfect pass from Mikael Granlund, gave the Wild a 2-1 lead in the second period. His second — after the Canadiens rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie the score 3-3 with nine minutes, 47 seconds left — gave his team its fourth victory in the past five games. Pominville added an assist for good measure for the first three-point game of his brief Wild career.
The Wild, now 7-4-3, recovered from a shaky third period to win for the fifth time in eight home games this season. Pominville now has eight goals in his past nine games, including Friday’s winner with 5:28 left.
“Pucks are finding me, and I’m finding ways to put them in,” said Pominville, whose eight goals since Oct. 14 are tied for the most of any NHL player in that span. “We’re getting rewarded for all the work we’ve put in. As a line, we went through a little bit of a tough stretch; we weren’t able to generate much in the goal column. Now we’re starting to chip in.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo credited Pominville’s ability to keep the faith despite a slow start. The veteran winger leads the Wild with nine goals — five of those in the past three games.
“He didn’t get overly frustrated at the beginning of the year when things weren’t going in for him,” Yeo said. “He’s getting chances. He’s continued to play the right way, and that takes some strength. It takes a lot of character to stay with it and continue to do the right thing, and he’s getting rewarded for that.”
Pominville wasn’t the only hero. Granlund earned two assists to highlight a solid overall game and has a team-high 10 assists, surpassing the eight points he scored in 27 games last season. Keith Ballard’s two assists — including one on Pominville’s winner — gave him his first multipoint game in more than three years.
Yeo’s new-look lines preserved the duo of Pominville and Granlund, who continue to show impressive chemistry. After Justin Fontaine scored the game’s first goal at 5:45, Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher crashed the net to tie it 25 seconds later. Midway through the second period, Granlund threaded a pass through two Canadiens to Pominville for a breakaway goal and a 2-1 lead.
Granlund made another beautifully-timed pass to Nino Niederreiter for a tip-in at the right post early in the third period. But the swift, stubborn Canadiens — who outshot the Wild 31-25 — erased that margin with P.K. Subban’s monstrous slapshot on a power play, followed three minutes later by Brian Gionta’s redirection.
Yeo mixed up his lines in the third period to try and create some consistency. Pominville — who played with Granlund and Niederreiter in the final period — said he went out a bit early for a shift late in the game, while Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu were still on the ice. The result was the same; he slipped to the net, and when Parise deflected a Ballard shot, Pominville was there to seize the puck and snap a quick shot past goalie Carey Price.
“I was able to get a bounce and put it away,” Pominville said. “It’s nice to get rewarded that way.”