Jason Pominville received a warm welcome in his return to Buffalo and left his former team still searching for its first win of the season.
Pominville, a former Sabres captain, scored the winning goal in the Minnesota Wild’s 2-1 victory over the winless Sabres on Monday night.
”It tops off a pretty emotional day in a great way,” said Pominville, who played his first game in Buffalo since he was traded to Minnesota last April for center Johan Larsson, Rochester goalie Matt Hackett, a first-round pick that was used on defenseman Nikita Zadorov and a second-round selection. ”So many good memories in this building. It’s nice to get another one.”
Pominville scored on the power play with 9.7 seconds left in the second period to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead. Mikko Koivu and Jared Spurgeon assisted on the goal.
Kyle Brodziak also scored for Minnesota (3-1-2). Josh Harding made 22 saves.
Buffalo (0-6-1) tied a franchise record for its longest winless streak to start a season. The Sabres were 0-5-2 in 1999 and 0-4-3 in 1990.
The Sabres came into the game allowing an average of 37 shots on goal, but held Minnesota to only 16. Buffalo failed to take advantage, however, and went 0-4 on the power play.
”There were many moments in the game where I don’t feel that our execution was at its best, but the bottom line is we did enough good things to win this hockey game,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. ”I thought special teams was critical.”
Brian Flynn lifted Buffalo into a 1-1 tie with 4:56 to go in the second period, scoring his first of the season off an assist from Zemgus Girgensons.
The Sabres are a young team that is having trouble scoring. They have just seven goals through seven games, another franchise record for futility.
”You’re not going to win many games scoring one goal,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. ”We need our top six to step up.”
Pominville empathized with his former teammates.
”It’s tough for the group of guys that have been here a while,” he said. ”The team is going through a little bit of a rebuild, trusting a lot of younger players. It’s going to be a process for them.
”I definitely feel for the guys that have been here a long time. They are competitors, they want to win, and right now it’s not going their way. But I’m sure they’ll stick with it and find a way to turn it around.”
Pominville, who spent 12 years in the Sabres organization, ranks 12th on the team’s career list in goals (185) and points (456). He received a warm ovation from the fans when his name was announced in the starting lineup. He then drew boos after he scored the go-ahead goal.
”We’ve very happy for him,” Yeo said. ”He’s a guy that brings so much to our team, so much to our locker room. He’s a guy that you just want to go out and help him.”
Brodziak gave the Wild an early lead with his first of the season, scoring from the right circle on a delayed penalty five minutes in. Matt Cooke and Jonas Brodin assisted on the goal, Brodziak’s first of the season.
Jonas Enroth started in place of No. 1 Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and made 18 saves.
”It’s going to be hard to win with only one goal scorer,” Enroth said. ”At the same time, I think we played pretty well. We were in charge pretty much the whole game. So it’s a good sign, I think.”
NOTES: Buffalo D Henrik Tallinder returned to the lineup after missing four games with an upper body injury. The Sabres sent Alexander Sulzer to Rochester of the AHL to make room on the roster. . . . Minnesota D Nate Prosser was a healthy scratch for the sixth straight game. . . . Pominville has now scored against all 30 NHL teams. . . . The start of the second period was delayed 16 minutes because of a lighting malfunction.