ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild have struck a fresh balance this season.
Goals are coming from everywhere in the lineup, an everyman vibe that begins in the locker room and carries onto the ice.
Connor Dewar got his first career goal and added an assist when Nico Sturm scored 22 seconds later, helping the Wild match their franchise record for goals in an 8-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.
Jared Spurgeon, Marcus Foligno, Mats Zuccarello, Matt Boldy, Jordie Benn and Kevin Fiala also scored as Minnesota dominated NHL-worst Montreal to ease Cam Talbot’s return to the net.
“Everybody can play. Everybody works hard. It’s a pretty special team here,” Benn said.
Zuccarello squeezed a bad-angle shot past goalie Cayden Primeau with 31 seconds left in the second period for a 5-1 lead for the Wild, who are 10-0-1 with a 56-25 scoring margin in their last 11 games at Xcel Energy Center. Their only home regulation loss since Nov. 16 was to St. Louis in the Winter Classic at Target Field on Jan. 1.
“It must be an absolute wonderful environment to come into, because of the people that are in there. We’ve talked about it so many times with how accepting they are,” Minnesota coach Dean Evason said.
Mike Hoffman gave the Canadiens the lead by slamming a pass to the slot past Talbot’s glove just 1:23 into the game, but Spurgeon tied it less than two minutes later with an uncontested slap shot for the captain’s first goal since Nov. 11. He missed a total of 15 games with two different injuries.
Talbot made 14 saves in two periods for his first win since Dec. 9. The All-Star missed the last six games with a lower-body injury sustained in the subzero temperature during the Winter Classic, and over the three weeks prior to that the Wild also had four games postponed by opponent COVID-19 outbreaks.
Kaapo Kahkonen, who went 5-0-1 during Talbot’s absence, took over for the third period and gave up a goal to former teammate Rem Pitlick. Talbot aggravated the injury, Evason said, but not seriously, and his absence was only precautionary.
Pitlick has two goals in six games with the Canadiens, who claimed him off waivers from the Wild two weeks ago when he was struggling to accept a bottom-six forward spot.
The fourth line Pitlick left behind made quite a mark on this game, more evidence of the enviable depth the Wild have assembled under general manager Bill Guerin.
Dewar scored on a shot from the slot that scraped the crossbar. Then he used his stick to route Spurgeon’s pass toward Sturm for the tap-in and a 4-1 lead at 4:23 of the second period.
“For us as a line, most nights there’s not a lot of glory in the kind of game that we play. It feels good for all of us,” said Sturm, who was beaming about his buddy Dewar’s first goal.
Dewar, Sturm and Brandon Duhaime all developed together for Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa.
“We used to joke about, ‘When we’re in the league,’ and I thought it was very fitting that it was those two who were the first guys to hug me when I scored tonight,” said Dewar, a third-round draft pick by the Wild in 2018.
The Canadiens dropped to 8-26-7. They’re 1-5-4 in their last 10 games. Primeau, making his 12th career start, was pulled after two periods for Michael McNiven, who allowed three goals on seven shots in his NHL debut.
With goalie Carey Price in treatment for substance abuse and Jake Allen sidelined by a long-term injury, the Canadiens also recently lost Sam Montembault to an injury.
“We were losing those 1-on-1 battles too often, and just made it too easy on them,” coach Dominique Ducharme said.
The Wild had a 21-8 shots advantage in the first period over the depleted Canadiens, who lost center Christian Dvorak to an unspecified injury on his first shift after a hit by Spurgeon.
“I didn’t like the hit. It was just quickly, but it looked like he clipped him pretty good in the head,” said Canadians right wing Josh Anderson.
HUNDRED DOLLAR BILL KIRILL
Alex Goligoski, Jordan Greenway, Kirill Kaprizov and Sturm each had two assists. Kaprizov’s helpers gave him 100 career points and earned him a hearty ovation from the crowd when he was captured on the video board during a stoppage in play.
Kaprizov became the fourth-fastest active player in the NHL to hit the milestone, in 92 career games — trailing Alex Ovechkin (77), Sidney Crosby (80) and Evgeni Malkin (89).
Fiala and Zuccarello each have at least one point in nine straight games. … Hoffman has 10 goals and eight assists in 20 career games against the Wild. … The Canadiens made their first trip to Minnesota in more than 27 months and have lost eight straight road games against the Wild.
The Canadiens host Anaheim on Thursday night, their first of eight consecutive home games.
The Wild play their first of four straight road games Friday night against the New York Rangers.
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