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Wild jump on Canadiens early en route to 6-3 victory

Rachel Blount, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Hockey

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Hours before the Wild played Montreal on Thursday, coach Bruce Boudreau laid out a few expectations. He noted that Wild forward Matt Cullen had "started to get his legs" and was playing better, and he thought defenseman Matt Dumba would bounce back from a poor effort Tuesday.

Boudreau also anticipated the Canadiens would get out to a fast start in their only game this season at Xcel Energy Center. That turned out to be the only thing the coach got wrong, as the Wild pummeled Montreal, 6-3.

Cullen, playing his 1,500th NHL game on his 41st birthday, scored the Wild's first goal and added an assist to push his team to a 3-0 first-period lead. Dumba, after a major gaffe in his last game, took advantage of a Canadiens mistake for his first goal of the season. Tyler Ennis, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon and Marcus Foligno added goals as the Wild won for the third time in the past four games, earning its sixth victory in a row over Montreal.

While the Wild looked much crisper than they did in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Winnipeg, the Canadiens didn't put up much resistance in the first two periods. Goaltender Carey Price -- perennially one of the best in the NHL -- was well off his top form, stopping 21 shots and contributing to the Wild's second goal with a bad clearing attempt. The Wild led 4-0 before Montreal got on the board, though the Canadiens picked up the pace in the third period.

The Canadiens have not started the season well, winning only one of their first eight games. They entered Thursday's game off their first consecutive victories of the season, putting up 13 goals in the two games and leading Boudreau to expect a similar attack Thursday.

Instead, Montreal reverted to earlier form. Price got little defensive support and reacted slowly, while the Wild put forth a sharp offensive performance two days after a low-energy effort against Winnipeg. The Wild nearly scored only 30 seconds in, as Erik Staal's shot traced the goal line behind Price but did not cross it.

Cullen scored his first goal of the season at 4:46, putting in a rebound of Mike Reilly's shot from the right point. Only 10 seconds later, Dumba made it 2-0. The defenseman, who was benched for 19 minutes after a bad pass that set up Winnipeg's winning goal Tuesday, grabbed Price's clearing attempt at the right point and fired a rising shot into the top of the net.

Ennis scored his 100th NHL goal to make it 3-0 at 15:51 of the first, going to the net and knocking in Cullen's pass from the right circle.

Suter's goal from the right circle at 12:09 of the second extended the Wild's lead to 4-0 before Montreal's Brendan Gallagher finished off a two-on-one to pull the Canadiens within 4-1 just one minute later. The Wild got its fourth power play of the game with 14 seconds remaining in the second period, as Jeff Petry was called for hooking.

It ended an 0-for-19 drought at 34 seconds of the third period. On a pretty tic-tac-toe play, Mikael Granlund passed to Mikko Koivu below the goal line, and Koivu found Spurgeon at the left edge of the crease for a 5-1 lead.

The Canadiens outplayed the Wild for much of the third period and got goals from Andrew Shaw and Gallagher to cut the lead to 5-3 before Foligno's empty-net goal.

(c)2017 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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